Holiday baking, round 2: Favourites

I marked the arrival of our new (convection!) oven last weekend by making two seasonal musts in our house: chocolate chip shortbread cookies and gingersnaps.
I’m usually something of a minimalist when it comes to kitchen gadgetry, but together my KitchenAid stand mixer (purchased three years ago) and the new oven have radically reduced the time it takes me to bake a batch of cookies.
I brought some of my results to a family potluck at my grandparents and wrapped a couple dozen for a charity bake sale at work.

Chocolate chip shortbread cookies.

Chocolate chip shortbread cookies
This recipe came from my home economics teacher aunt more than 20 years ago. They are crisp, slightly delicate and melt-in-your-mouth. My chef sister has made a dozen variations over the years: substituting cocoa for part of the flour and white chocolate chips for semi-sweet; adding nuts, dried fruit or crushed candy or making slightly chewier drop cookies instead of the thin, crisp pressed versions. For my money (and time in the kitchen), you can’t beat the original.
Makes about 60 cookies.

560 mL (2-1/4 cups) flour
2 mL (1/2) tsp salt
375 mL (1-1/2 cups) butter, softened
250 mL (1 cup) icing sugar
10 mL (2 tsp) vanilla
375 mL (1-1/2) cup mini chocolate chips

Sift icing sugar.
Sift together flour and salt.
In bowl of electric mixer, cream butter. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Gradually add flour and mix until incorporated.
Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips.
If dough is quite soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Form 2.5-cm (1-inch) balls. Using a flat-bottomed glass, flatten on cookie sheet to 5-cm (2-inch) diameter.
Bake in 325 Fahrenheit oven for 10 to 11 minutes.

Gingersnaps in the oven.

I’ve used many recipes for ginger cookies over the years. This year, when I pulled out my most often used recipe, I realized it called for corn syrup, which I’d neglected to buy. By the time I found a bottle at the back of my baking supplies cupboard, I’d already committed to this recipe from Joy of Baking.
The result is spicy little cookies with just the right amount of crunch for a gingersnap. I’ll be making them again — probably within the next two weeks.
Makes about 48 cookies.

185 mL (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
125 mL (1/2 cup) brown sugar (recipe calls for dark; I used light)
125 mL (1/2 cup) granulated white sugar
60 mL (1/4 cup) molasses
1 large egg
2 mL (1/2 tsp) pure vanilla
500 mL (2 cups) all purpose flour
2 mL (1/2 tsp) baking soda
1 mL (1/4 tsp) salt
10 mL (2 tsp) ground ginger
7 mL (1-1/2 tsp) ground cinnamon
2 mL (1/2 tsp) ground cloves
granulated sugar for rolling

In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy (2 to 3 minutes).
Add molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
Add to butter mixture and mix until well combined.
Cover and chill the batter for about 30 minutes or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit (180 Celsius). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place about 125 mL (1/2 cup) of white sugar on a small plate.
Roll chilled dough into 2.5-cm (1-inch) balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on baking sheet about 5 cm (2 inches) a part. Flatten slightly using the bottom of a glass.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until cookies feel dry and firm on top. The longer the cookies bake, the crisper they will be. Cool before eating.


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