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Christmas Cookie Recipes - Why Are Christmas Cookies a Tradition?

Can you imagine the holidays without them?

The history of Christmas cookies can be traced back to recipes from Medieval Europe when soldiers brought spices back to Europe from the Crusades, according to the website chocolateandmoredelights.com. During that time many new ingredients were introduced to the west such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, black pepper, almonds, and dried fruits. These ingredients were highly prized and families could only afford to incorporate them into baked goods during the most important holidays. By the 16th century, Christmas cookies had become popular across Europe. They were then shared with friends, family, and neighbors. Gingerbread is the most popular Christmas cookie in Germany and it has evolved over the years into a cake-like pastry. Eventually it became associated with Christmas when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert included it with a variety of other German Christmas traditions.

In the 17th century, German and Dutch settlers introduced cookie cutters and decorative molds to the USA. The availability of these utensils facilitated the increase in recipes in popular cookbooks. The cookie baking tradition has come a long way, but certain things never change. Our modern Christmas cookies still contain the traditional spices. It is the most wonderful time of the year and we are ready to bake the next batch.


Simple Gingerbread Men

Always a favorite!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour 
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl. Set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg, and vanilla; mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Press dough into a thick flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly-floured work surface. Cut into gingerbread men shapes with a 5-inch cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.

3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and just begin to brown. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. Decorate cooled cookies as desired. Store cookies in an airtight container up to 5 days.


Spice Chews

Try to eat just one!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¾ cup vegetable shortening
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

Directions 

1. Heat oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the shortening and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and beat in the egg, molasses, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined.

3. Place the granulated sugar on a plate. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls; roll in the sugar to coat. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Using a glass, press the balls to a ⅜-inch thickness and sprinkle with more granulated sugar.

4. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the edges are firm, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.


Raspberry-Almond Cut-Out Cookies

Beautiful and delicious! Adapted from realsimple.com.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup almonds
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the work surface
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder 
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 12-ounce jar raspberry jam

Directions 

1. Heat oven to 350° F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes; let cool.

2. In a food processor, process the almonds and ¼ cup of the brown sugar until the almonds are finely ground.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

4. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and the remaining ¼ cup brown sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the almond mixture, then the flour mixture, mixing until just combined (do not overmix).

5. Divide the dough in half, shape into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.

6, Heat oven to 350° F. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to a ⅛-inch thickness. Using a 2- to 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Using a ¾- to 1-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary.

7. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

8. Sprinkle the confectioners’ sugar on the cookies with the holes. Spread 1 teaspoon jam on the remaining cookies and top with the sugared cookies. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.


Angel Bites

Pretty and simple to make!

Ingredients
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • Glaze
  • 1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons multicolor nonpareil sprinkles or colored sugar, for decoration

Directions 

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and eggs until blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined.

3. With floured hands, roll level tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and the bottoms are pale golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

4. Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and the vanilla until the mixture forms a thick but pourable glaze. Add more water if necessary.

5. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and let set, rounded side up, on a rack set over a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle with non-pareils or sugar, if using. Allow the glaze to set, about 20 minutes. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

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