Let children help with tradition of baking Christmas goodies

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Photo by Ann Cipperly Let children help make Vienna Crescent Cookies. They can add the sugar and flour to the mixture and shape the dough into crescents to bake. They can then roll the cookies in confectioners’ sugar. The cookies can be packaged and given to family members or a home bound senior from the children.

By Ann Cipperly

Once the tree is decorated with glittering ornaments, fill the house with the enticing aromas of baking cookies. Drizzled with chocolate, embellished with nuts or sparkling with red and green sugar, cookies are a Christmas tradition. This year, let your children help bake cookies and other confections. It will create wonderful memories for the children being in the kitchen baking with their mom or grandmother.

Let the children decide what kind of cookies they want to bake to give for gifts to family members. As the children are helping to mix the cookie dough, play Christmas music and serve hot chocolate. As the cookies bake, share the reason we are celebrating Christmas and why we give gifts.

Once the cookies are baked, assemble them in tins or plastic bags tied with festive ribbon. This is not only a fun project and a wonderful tradition for children, but it also teaches them the importance of giving at Christmas. Along with giving cookies to family members, leave a tin at the home of a homebound senior.

During Christmas, certain cookies have been a tradition at our home. Since I enjoy baking, I would volunteer to bake for our children’s Christmas parties at school. When my youngest son was in first grade, I baked enough 10-inch gingerbread men for the class.

I baked several batches of gingerbread dough from scratch. I rolled out the dough and cut the cookies with a 10-inch gingerbread man cookie cutter. After they baked, I decorated their faces and gave them buttons.

I went to the class party and passed out the tall gingerbread men with cookies other mothers had baked. I thought the children would be excited to have their own gingerbread man and might want to take the cookie home.

However, when it came time to clean up, I found most of the gingerbread men with their heads bitten off to throw in the trash. The following year, I baked a much easier peanut butter cookie.

Peg Weiss is an expert when it comes to making gingerbread and Christmas sugar cookies. Her gingerbread houses are legendary for being expertly created entirely with edible materials. She created and baked a Victorian gingerbread house for the cover of a December issue of Parents magazine, as well as numerous other confections featured in several articles.

Growing up in Iowa, the talented baker learned cake decorating from her mother, who was an artist. When Peg was around six years old, her mother took a cake decorating class and began decorating cakes and Christmas cookies.

Peg was fascinated and picked up the skill quickly. By the time she was in college she was a master at decorating cookies for Christmas gifts.

When Peg and her husband, Peter, lived in Arizona, the mother of one of her students brought her a gingerbread house for a Christmas gift. Peg was intrigued. She took the cake apart and drew a pattern. She experimented with gingerbread recipes to be sure it tasted good and maintained its shape.

Later when they lived in Ithaca, New York, Peg and a friend started a business called The Gingerbread House. During the Christmas season, they created hundreds of gingerbread houses and decorated cookies.

They were asked to bake a hundred gingerbread houses for a charity in New York. While attending the event, they learned Parents magazine was looking for someone to bake a gingerbread house for the cover of the December issue.

They were chosen. The president of Parents magazine was so impressed with the creation that he asked them to make an identical one for the editor of the publication’s German counterpart.

Peg and her business partner designed Christmas display windows for gourmet shops in New York and Philadelphia. The windows were filled with gingerbread houses and decorated cookies. Both shops sold thousands of their Christmas cookies.

For the business, Peg’s grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe was used with cream of tartar that “rolls out like velvet.” It is the same recipe her mother used for making Christmas cookies. “Not only is the dough easy to work with,” says Peg, “the cookies taste good.”

With the kind of frosting she uses, Peg lets the cookies sit overnight to dry, then stacks them.

The Weisses moved to Auburn in the 1980s. For the City of Auburn’s sesquicentennial celebration, Peg was asked to bake a cake for 750. The huge cake featured reproductions of landmark buildings from the 1850s.

Peter passed away last year. Peg sold the Indian Pines Country Day School, a private kindergarten and preschool, and has retired. She has two grown children and two grandchildren. Peg taught her grandson Russell how to bake gingerbread houses and her Grandma’s Rolled Sugar Cookies to carry on the Christmas tradition.

Since her granddaughter is too young to decorate cookies with the icing, Peg mixes food coloring with milk, and her granddaughter “paints” the unbaked cookies with the milk mixture using small brushes.

This year, start your own Christmas traditions with your family’s favorite cookies. Following is a variety of yummy cookie recipes, including Peg’s famous sugar cookie recipe and a few candies to try. No doubt many of these delicious Christmas goodies will become a tradition at your home.

Viennese Crescents

These are a popular cookie at our home every year. Children can help shape the dough into crescents.

1½ cups ground nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)

1 cup butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla

¾ cup sugar

2½ cups all-purpose flour

Confectioners’ sugar for rolling cookies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter; beat in vanilla and ground nuts; mixing well. Add sugar and beat again.

On low speed, gradually add flour, beating until thoroughly mixed. Shape a rounded teaspoon of dough into small crescents. Place on ungreased cookie sheets, curing ends to form a crescent shape. Bake at 350 degrees for 17 to 18 minutes or only until the tips are lightly brown. Carefully roll cookies while still warm into confectioners’ sugar.

Butternuts

When my children were growing up, we made these cookies every Christmas.

¾ cup (1 and ½ sticks) butter, room temperature

½ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

¼ tsp. salt

1 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour

6 oz. pkg. (1 cup) butterscotch flavored chips

1 cup chopped pecans

Extra confectioners’ sugar for rolling cookies

Cream butter and ½ cup confectioners’ sugar; blend in salt and flour until smooth. Stir in butterscotch chips and pecans.

Shape dough, a scant teaspoon at a time, into a balls. Place dough balls 1-inch apart on cookie sheets.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 10 to 12 minutes (depends on size of cookie balls) until set but not brown.

Remove from cookie sheets to wire racks. When cool, roll in confectioners’ sugar.

Mom’s Chocolate Covered Coconut Balls

A Christmas favorite every year!

1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk

1 box confectioners’ sugar

14 oz. pkg. coconut

2 cups chopped pecans

Box of semi-sweet chocolate squares or 12 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ Tbsp. shortening

Put milk, sugar, coconut and pecans in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.

Roll in balls, using about 1 teaspoon of mixture for each. Place on cookie sheets, cover and chill 8 hours or longer.

Line a pan with waxed or parchment paper. Melt chocolate and shortening in top of a double boiler. Remove from heat.

Using two forks, drop coconut balls into chocolate and completely cover. Place on wax paper. Chill in refrigerator until chocolate is set. Can be frozen. Makes 5 to 6 dozen.

Grandma’s Rolled Sugar Cookies

Peg Weiss

Peg has had her expert gingerbread houses featured on the cover of a national magazine as well as her decorated cookies in other publications. She has made thousands of these cookies for special events, including for clients in New York.

1 cup butter, softened

1½ cups sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. soda

12 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture. Chill dough at least 2 hours.

Roll out on well-floured surface to 1/8 to ¼ inch thick. Cut into desired shapes.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges.

Cool thoroughly before decorating with Decorator’s Icing. Allow cookies to dry overnight before stacking.

Decorator’s Icing

1/3 cup Crisco

1/3 cup milk

½ tsp. vanilla

¼ tsp. almond extract

Pinch of salt

1 lb. powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients and beat on medium speed for two minutes. Add more sugar if needed to make icing desired consistency for decorating tubes.

Add paste or gel food coloring to icing to create desired colors.

FOR SMALL CHILDREN- Mix food color with milk, let children “paint” the unbaked cookies with small brushes.

Oatmeal Brickle Cookies

Payton Tatum

1 cup shortening

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

2 eggs

2 Tbsp. milk

1½ tsp. vanilla

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

4 cups quick oats

1⅓ cups (8 oz.) Bit ‘O Brickle or English Toffee Bits

*May add 1 cup chocolate chips for a yummy variation.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, blend shortening with sugars, adding sugar gradually. Add eggs, milk and vanilla; beat well. Add flour, salt and baking soda; beat well. Stir in oats and brickle.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls, about 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Place cookies on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 42 cookies.

Chocolaty Chocolate Chip Peppermint Kiss Cookies

Holly Muncie

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa (I use ¼ dark, ½ regular)

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. peppermint extract

2 eggs

½ bag mini chocolate chips

1 cup sugar

1 bag candy cane kisses, unwrapped and frozen

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

Beat butter, sugar and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until creamy for 5 to 10 minutes. Beat in eggs and extracts. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Use small cookie scoop to scoop dough, roll into balls, then roll in sugar. Put on parchment paper lined baking sheets.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until cookies are puffed and centers are set, but still soft. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes.

Press kisses in after 2 minutes and carefully move to wire racks to cool completely.

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies with Almond Glaze

Susan Housel

Recipe is from my niece Leigh McIntosh. 

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 tsp. almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam (or seedless jam of your choice)

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp. almond extract

2 to 3 tsp. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix sugar, butter and extract. Beat until creamy.

Reduce speed and add flour, beating until well mixed. Shape into one-inch balls. Place on parchment paper on cookie sheet. Use thumb to make indentation in center of each, then fill indentations with jam.

Bake for 14 to 18 minutes or until the edges are light brown. Let cool briefly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Mix glaze. Drizzle over cooled cookies. 

Butter-Pecan Shortbread and Maple Walnut Shortbread

Mindy McCain Smith

1¼ cups flour

3 Tbsp. sugar

½ cup butter

In a medium bowl combine first two ingredients. Using a pastry blender cut butter into dry mixture until the texture becomes crumbly and starts to cling. Form the dough into a ball and knead until smooth.

On an ungreased cookie sheet pat dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut the circle into 8 wedges. Bake in preheated 325 degree for 25 to 30 minutes (until the center is set and the bottom begins to brown). Re-cut wedges while shortbread is warm. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer wire rack to complete cooling.

Butter-Pecan Shortbread

Prepare as above, except substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar. After cutting in butter, stir in 2 Tbsp. finely chopped pecans. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. vanilla extract before kneading.

Maple-Walnut Shortbread

Prepare recipe as above, except add 2 Tbsp. finely chopped walnuts instead of pecans and replace vanilla with maple flavoring.

Lee Cannon’s Peanut Butter Dipped Cocoa Bon Bons

2 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese

1 Tbsp. milk

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup finely chopped nuts

2 cups (12 oz.) peanut butter flavored chips

2 Tbsp. shortening

Beat cream cheese and milk until fluffy. Blend in sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Stir in nuts. Chill until firm to handle easily. Shape into ½-inch balls. Place on waxed paper. Chill 3 to 4 hours. In double boiler, stir peanut butter chips and shortening until melted. Dip balls in the peanut butter mixture. Place on waxed paper. Chill. Store in cool place. Makes 3 ½ dozen.

White Chocolate Covered Oreo Balls

Susan Housel

Recipe is from my niece Kelly McIntosh Powell. 

One package Oreos

8 oz. container whipped cream cheese

One pkg. white chocolate bark

Use food processor to make Oreo crumbs.

Use mixer to combine Oreo crumbs and whipped cream cheese.

Mix until ingredients form a large fudge ball. Chill in freezer.

Roll chilled dough into one-inch balls. Chill again to make the next step easier.

Dip balls into melted white chocolate. Place on cookie sheet, then let set in refrigerator or briefly in freezer.

Store in refrigerator until serving.

Ginger Crinkle Cookies

Cathy Dozier

This is a children’s helper recipe.

¾ cup cooking oil

1 cup sugar

1 egg

4 Tbsp. molasses

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 tsp. soda

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

¼ cup sugar for dipping

Mix oil and sugar thoroughly; add egg and beat well. Stir in molasses. Sift dry ingredients and add to the mixture.

Drop teaspoonfuls of batter into sugar and form into small ball coated with sugar.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet 3 inches apart. Bake at 350 for about 13 to 15 minutes or until cooked. The cookies will flatten and crinkle. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Ida Mae Armistead’s Brownies

Terri LeCroy

When I was working at the hospital in my early 20s, Mrs. Ida Mae would bring these every Thursday morning. They are the best brownies I have ever tasted.

1 cup butter

2/3 cup cocoa

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

3 eggs, beaten

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups pecans, chopped (optional)

Icing:

1/2 cup butter

2 cups sugar

5 oz. evaporated milk

1 cup frozen chocolate chips

Combine butter and cocoa in a saucepan. Cook over low heat; stir until butter melts. Remove from heat. Mix in sugar, flour and eggs. Add vanilla and pecans; mix well.

Spoon into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.

To make icing, combine butter, sugar and evaporated milk in a saucepan; boil for 2 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread over hot brownies. Chill for 2 hours before slicing.

Almond Cream Cheese Cookies with Chocolate Glaze

1 cup butter or margarine, room temperature

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese,. Room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 Tbsp. grated orange rind

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

1 ¼ cups blanched almonds, finely chopped, divided

Extra sugar for dipping

Chocolate Glaze, recipe follows

Cream butter with cream cheese. Beat in sugar, vanilla and orange rind until light and fluffy.

Mix in flour, salt and 1 cup almonds. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and flatten cookies with bottom of a glass dipped into graduated sugar.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks. When cool, spoon about ½ tsp. Chocolate Glaze onto the center of each cook, spreading with the back of the spoon. Sprinkle remaining almonds on top.

Chocolate Glaze

4 oz. squares semi-sweet chocolate

¼ cup butter

Place butter and chocolate in saucepan on low heat and stir until melted or carefully melt in microwave.

Refrigerator Brown Sugar Cookies

Joanne Woodall

Mix together:

1 cup soft shortening (Crisco)

½ cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

Mix in mixer for five minutes.

Sift together:

2 ¾ cup plain flour

½ tsp. soda

1 tsp. salt

2/3 tsp. cinnamon

½ cup chopped pecans, optional

Add all ingredients together; mix well. Mold stiff batter into a long roll. Chill 2 to 3 hours. Slice and bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown.

To freeze: Roll dough into rolls. Wrap in wax paper and freeze. Will keep 6 months. Slice and bake when needed.

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