If you’re like me, you’re having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit. We put up our Christmas tree over Thanksgiving weekend, and I’ve been listening to carols for weeks. I’ve been to holiday parties and have enjoyed the Christmas hymns at church. However, despite the music and shopping and cards, it just doesn’t seem like late December. Oh wait, maybe it’s this ridiculous weather. Right now, New York City is gross. It’s rainy, warm, and muggy. How can a girl dreaming of a white Christmas get into the holiday spirit with this disgusting weather? Well, here’s how . . .
Last Friday was my last week of teaching for the year 2011, so this past weekend, I devoted my time to Christmas cookies. I cleaned my kitchen, I bought my supplies, I blared my holiday tunes, and I baked . . . and baked and baked and baked. In the end, I made hundreds of cookies . . .
And then, I boxed them all up—carefully, dividing the box into sections and placing the cookies into paper cupcake cups to make everything look fancy—and I sent them all to work with Brandon. I do this every year. Brandon receives a little popularity, I get to bake, and I get the calorie-filled, butter-and-sugar-stuffed treats out of my house.
Well, most of them. I kept a dozen or so, and I’m officially addicted to the mint fudge I made for the first time this year.
Every year, for the most part, I make the same cookies. I have three recipes that are top-notch—the best: chocolate ganache thumbprints, cranberry-pistachio cornmeal biscotti, and giant ginger cookies. The chocolate thumbprints—Brandon’s most favorite—are rich with a slight saltiness that makes them sinfully decadent. The biscotti are crispy, light, and because they are filled with red cranberries and green pistachios, ultra Christmas-y. Last, but certainly not least, are my chewy ginger cookies. They might be the most popular: soft, spicy, and enormous.
In addition to the favorites, I usually make a candy of some sort. In years past, I’ve made peppermint bark, but this year, I opted for some peppermint fudge. Whoa, I had no idea how great this fudge would turn out. No candy thermometer required. It’s smooth, rich, and refreshingly minty.
And on top of that, I made sugar cut-outs. I was dying to do a little decorative frosting, so I made these the day before I made the rest. The dough was super easy, and the cookies turned out delicious. To color the dough and frosting, I used food coloring gel—sometimes called paste. This creates bright, saturated color—no pastel pinks and greens here—and doesn’t change the consistency of the dough or icing. Mine is from Martha Stewart, but I know Wilton makes it, too. Cake stores and other “fine kitchen stores” sell it. It’s definitely worth seeking out, and, because you don’t need to use much, it lasts a long time.
Well, needless to say, all of this cookie baking (and giving) put me right into the Christmas spirit. I promise, any of the following recipes will get you and your family ready for the holidays, too. Enjoy, and happy holidays!
- Chocolate Thumbprints with Chocolate Ganache, from Martha Stewart (For the ganache, I like to use premium bittersweet chocolate, and instead of an expensive vanilla bean, I use a teaspoon of vanilla extract.)
- Cranberry-Pistachio Biscotti, from Martha Stewart
- Giant Ginger Cookies, from Better Homes and Gardens (These cookies are even better when made with black strap molasses and rolled in coarse turbinado sugar.)
- Peppermint Fudge, from Martha Stewart (Instead of “garnishing” these with starlight mints, I crushed a candy cane and sprinkled it over the still-warm fudge.)
- Sugar Cookie Cut-outs with Royal Frosting, from Martha Stewart