Christmas cookies

Fabio Trabocchi's Almond Cookies
DEB LINDSEY/The Washington Post
(The Washington Post)
Mon, Dec 17, 2012
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A chocolate bunny at Easter? No, thanks, don’t need it.

The half-bag of Snickers bars left over the day after Halloween? Just say no.

But, if there’s one time of the year that you’re entitled to splurge, and one genre of food you’re entitled to splurge on, it’s Christmas and the cookie.


Crispy Toffee Cookies

Here’s a cookie for toffee fans. The original recipe was built around a Swedish candy bar called Daim that, fortunately, has two nearly identical relatives in the States. The candy bars typically are small, so you’ll need to buy several to equal 7 ounces. Don’t buy the miniature bars; they’ll have too much chocolate and not enough toffee. If you want to dispense with the chocolate altogether, Heath sells Toffee Bits in 8-ounce bags.

The dough needs to be wrapped and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 1 month.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped

Pinch salt

1 1/4 cups flour, plus more for the work surface

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

7 ounces crushed hard toffee candy bars, such as Daim, Heath or Skor (see headnote)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Beat the butter and sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held mixer on medium-high speed until light, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the almonds, salt, flour, baking powder and toffee bits. Finally, incorporate the egg.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a uniform log about 3 inches in diameter and 10 inches long. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 440 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Use a sharp knife to slice the log of dough into 1/2-inch rounds. Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are light brown, rotating the sheet front to back about halfway through baking.

If the cookies lose some of their shape during baking, you can remedy that during the few minutes immediately after they come out of the oven. Use a metal spatula to push in any wayward dough and coax the cookie back into roundness.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container. Makes about 20 3-inch cookies

Per cookie: 170 calories, 3 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 25 milligrams cholesterol, 65 milligrams sodium, 0 grams dietary fiber, 12 grams sugar

— Adapted from “Swedish Desserts” by Cecilia Vikbladh (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012) via The Washington Post


Sour Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

 These bright, chewy, chocolaty, fruity cookies are terrific singly and equally good with the cherry filling. You can make them as small as a couple of inches or as large as 6 inches in diameter.

 The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour before baking.

 For the cookies:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

 1/2 teaspoon salt

 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool

 1/4 cup vegetable shortening

 1 cup packed light brown sugar

 1/2 cup granulated sugar

 3 tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup or honey

 1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped dried sour cherries

 For the filling:

 6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

 1/4 cup Smucker’s Orchard Finest Michigan Red Tart Cherry Preserves

 For the cookies: Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and rolled oats in a large bowl.

Beat together the butter, shortening, sugars and the golden syrup or honey in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat until very light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, beating until incorporated. Use a flexible spatula to fold in the chocolate chips and cherries. Cover the dough with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

 When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking oil spray.

Scoop out 1-inch balls of dough and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Press down on the top of each ball to flatten it slightly. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until evenly browned. (The cooking time will vary if you make the dough balls larger or smaller.) Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely before assembling the sandwiches.

For the filling: Place the cream cheese in a bowl and use a spoon or flexible spatula to stir and soften it further. Add the preserves and stir to incorporate. Invert half of the cookies so the flat side is facing up, and spoon a small mound of filling onto each cookie. Top each with one of the remaining cookies, flat side down. Makes about 36 cookies or 18 sandwich cookies.

Per sandwich cookie: 460 calories, 5 grams protein, 62 grams carbohydrates, 23 grams fat, 13 grams saturated fat, 50 milligrams cholesterol, 180 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 38 grams sugar

— Kate Jansen, pastry chef at Willow restaurant in Arlington, Va., via The Washington Post

Pineapple Date Squares

This old recipe satisfies new demands: no added fats here. Coconut gives these cakelike squares a slight chewiness, and fruit keeps them moist.

The squares can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. For best long-term storage, freeze without cutting into squares, for up to 3 months.

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup crushed, drained pineapple

1/2 cup pitted dates, finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, letting it overhang the pan by a couple of inches on 2 opposite sides.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl. Drain any juices that might have collected beneath the crushed pineapple, then add the pineapple to the bowl, along with the dates, walnuts and coconut. Stir just until well incorporated.

Transfer to the lined baking pan, spreading the batter in an even layer and making sure to fill the corners. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on top and set.

Lift the slab out by the parchment paper and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into 36 equal squares.

Per square: 60 calories, 0 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat, 1 grams saturated fat, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 35 milligrams sodium, 0 grams dietary fiber, 7 grams sugar

— Adapted from the booklet “Penny Powers’ Christmas Cookbook” (undated), published by the Saskatchewan Power Corp. via The Washington Post

Fabio Trabocchi's Almond Cookies

This is chef Fabio Trabocchi’s take on polvorones, a Spanish cookie. In Spain, they’re frequently made with pork fat; this recipe calls for butter instead.

The dough needs to be wrapped and refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to 1 week. The baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks or frozen for up to 1 month.

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 cups almond flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon finely grated lime or lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Pinch salt

60 whole blanched almonds (see note)

Combine the butter, sugar, the flours, lime or lemon zest, cinnamon, almond extract and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at moderately low speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a work surface and divide it into thirds. Form each piece into a log; wrap the logs separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until slightly firm.

When ready to bake, position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut two of the logs crosswise into 20 pieces each and roll each piece into a ball. Transfer the balls to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Use your fingers to flatten them slightly, then press an almond into the top of each cookie.

Bake for 10 minutes on the upper and lower racks, then rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pans again. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are barely golden; watch closely so they don’t get dark.

Let them cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then slide the parchment onto cooling racks. Repeat to cook the third log of dough. Let the cookies cool completely before serving or storing. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes 60 2-inch cookies.

Note: If you can’t find blanched (skinned) almonds in the store, blanch them yourself. Place whole almonds in a large heatproof bowl. Cover them with boiling water and let them soak for 60 seconds. Drain the almonds in a colander or strainer, rinse them under cold water, drain briefly and transfer them to several layers of paper towels to dry. When the almonds are cool enough to handle, squeeze them to slip off their skins. Dry them completely before using or storing.

Per cookie: 80 calories, 1 gram protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 5 milligrams sodium, 0 grams dietary fiber, 4 grams sugar

— Adapted from Fabio Trabocchi, chef-owner of Fiola in Washington, D.C., via the Washington Post

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