Quick and Easy Christmas Cookies

Christmas cookies are a huge part of Christmas celebrations.  Even people who are not enthusiastic about cooking, pull out their dusty baking sheets, stock up on flour, sugar, and butter, and start baking up a storm.  Baking is great, and as a lifelong fan of cookies, I would never discourage anyone from trying their hand at making a really elaborate, complicated dish.  But really, why?  Most people are overextended and stressed during the holidays anyway.  There are travel arrangements to make, presents to buy and wrap, holiday parties to plan and attend, etc.  Why not stick to a few simple and basic recipes that are delicious, and please everyone, but still leave you some time to actually enjoy the holidays!  Here are four recipes that take just a few short minutes to put together, and will give you some lovely old-fashioned homemade holiday goodies, without a huge investment of time and expense.  So check them out and give some of them a try!

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are the quintessential Christmas Cookie.  This particular recipe makes cookies that are easy to roll out and cut into festive shapes with cookie cutters.  They hold their shape well, for transport and decorating.  Best of all, they are delicious!  Frost them with your favorite vanilla frosting, or royal icing!

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon No Color Almond Extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In mixing bowl, cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and extracts. Mix flour, baking powder and salt; add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition.

Do not chill dough. Divide dough into 2 balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a circle approximately 12 in. wide and 1/8 in. thick. Dip cookie cutter in flour before each use.

Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet 6-7 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.

Royal Icing

This icing mixes up in just a couple of steps, and makes an icing that paints on beautifully, and dries to a bright, hard finish!

Ingredients

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
assorted food coloring

Directions

In a small bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.  Divide into separate bowls, and add food coloring to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush.

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons are a deceptively simple delicious cookie!  They mix up in just a few steps and bake up with a crispy outside, and a delicious chewy inside!

Ingredients:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, coconut and salt. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla using your hands until well blended. Use an ice cream scoop to drop dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about golf ball size.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until coconut is toasted.

Russian Teacakes

These buttery cookies are known by several names, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Fairy Cookies, and the name I grew up calling the, Russian Tea Cakes.  They take only a few minutes to mix together and bake quickly for a melt-in-your-mouth treat!

Ingredients

2 c. butter
1 c. confectioner’s sugar
5 ½  c. sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. vanilla
1 ½  c. chopped pecans

Directions

Blend well, and form into 1-inch balls.  Bake 13-14 minutes in 350-degree oven.  Remove from oven, and while still warm, roll in sifted confectioners sugar.

Chocolate Truffles

This is the most technically difficult recipe of the bunch, but it is still a snap, if you pay attention to what you are doing!  Just make sure you watch the chocolate to keep it from separating, and you will be good to go.  Here is something to keep in mind, though.  This recipe makes a lot, so have some people in mind to share these delicious holiday candies with!  And don’t be afraid to get creative with the toppings you roll the truffles in!

Ingredients

For the ganache

Generous 2 cups  heavy cream
21 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Generous 1/4 cup  Grand Marnier or Stoli Razberi vodka (optional)

To garnish the truffles

2 cups  Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 1/2 cups (9 ounces; 250 grams) shredded sweetened coconut, toasted
About 2 cups (8 ounces; 230 grams) toasted nuts, finely chopped

Directions

Heat the heavy cream in a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan.  Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-size mixing bowl. Make a ganache by pouring about half of the hot cream over the chocolate and letting it sit for 30 seconds to melt the chocolate. Then slowly whisk until smooth. Do not add all of the hot cream to the cold chocolate at once; the shock of the temperature extremes would cause the fat in the chocolate to separate. Add the remaining cream gradually and mix until all of the hot cream is incorporated and the ganache is smooth.

Pour the ganache onto a plastic wrap-covered baking sheet and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Cover the ganache with plastic wrap and allow it to cool for at least 4 hours at room temperature. I usually make the ganache at the end of the day and let it cool overnight. As it cools, it will thicken and set.
You can also use a spoon and drop small mounds of ganache onto the baking sheet. Let the truffles harden at room temperature for a couple of hours (or in the refrigerator for 15 minutes), until they are hard enough to roll with your hands. To roll the mound into a ball, place a truffle between both palms, squeeze slightly, and roll between your hands. The truffles will look nicer if they are as round as possible. When all the truffles are rolled into balls, they are ready to be coated. If they have become too soft, place them in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours until they are firm enough to roll.  Roll the truffles in your favorite topping.  Some favorites of ours are, toasted coconut, Dutch-processed cocoa, and finely chopped toasted pecans or almonds.  They are absolutely delicious, and make great gifts for family, friends, co-workers, etc.!

The truffles will keep for up to 2 weeks at room temperature, when stored in an airtight container.

We have tested these recipes exhaustively in the official Discount Party Supplies Party Kitchen (a.k.a. the kitchen in my house!)  These are all easy-breezy, fast, and tasty as can be.  You will enjoy making them almost as much as your family and friends will enjoy eating them!  Enjoy your holidays with your family and bask in the glory of all of your homemade treats!

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