Through My Kitchen Window – Christmas Cookies

Christmas season is upon us. Once again I was amazed by how quickly Christmas lights went up in my neighborhood and empty parking lots transformed into impromptu Christmas tree farms. My local grocery store and every radio station are playing Christmas songs. Even my husband was bitten by the Christmas bug, and started reading the Nativity story to our son.

Considering that it’s the fourth day of December, we NEED to discuss cookies. All Christmas parties and family reunions seem to require a plate of cookies for admittance. Then there are those family members who need Christmas cookies to get into the holiday spirit.

There’s also the simple fact that Christmas cookies are an American tradition. Our first published Christmas cookie recipe is found in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796). German immigrant’s popularized gingerbread cookies. And cookie cutters came into vogue in the early 1900’s and with them the sugar cookie.

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I think it will take my husband the next 21 days to finish reading the Nativity story with our little boy’s constant questions. So while my husband tries to explain the triune nature of Jesus to a 4-year old, I’ll get started on Christmas cookies.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from a recipe by Kirsten Vala

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

15 oz pureed pumpkin

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375°. Cream the butter and sugar. Stir in the pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda and powder, and spices. Gradually mix into the wet ingredients. Stir in the chocolate and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto greased baking sheets.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing. Frost or glaze if desired. Yields approx. 30 cookies.

Polish Kolaczki Cookies

Adapted from a recipe by Barbara Rolek

8 ozs cream cheese, softened

3 sticks butter, softened

3 cups all-purpose flour

28 ozs fruit or cheese filling (see note)

Confectioners sugar

Mix together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add flour in small amounts. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350°. Dust your work surface with equal parts confectioners and granulated sugar (not flour). Roll out dough ¼ in thick, and cut into 2 in squares, diamonds, or circles. Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon filling in the center of each square. Overlap opposite corners of dough to the center over filling.

Bake 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just prior to service. Yield 5 dozen.

Notes: Popular jam or pie fillings include apricot, raspberry, prune, strawberry, blueberry, and sweet cheese. Do not freeze baked cookies. To make ahead, freeze un-baked cookies, and bake (un-thawed) when needed.

Snickerdoodles

1/2 cup butter, room temp

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 spoonful’s sugar

2 spoonful’s cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°. Cream together butter, shortening, butter, sugar, and eggs. Add the dry ingredients and stir until well blended. Mix the spoonful’s of sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl.

Make small balls, and roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Indent lightly with a fork if desired. Bake 8-10 mins or until light brown. Yields 8 dozen.