Why do so many people go on diets after the New Year? It’s all those cookies that are being churned out at nearly every Judeo-Christian home in the U.S. from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. It’s as if the Keebler Elves’ tree house takes root right center of the kitchen island. In my new world order I may not have the space to create elaborate, multi-course meals. But I can bake cookies, and boy have I been baking—peanut butter cookies, triple chocolate cookies and almond brickle cookies. I’ve even managed to create a new cookie recipe, which you’ll find at the end of this post.
I’d like to say that my baking frenzy is an annual holiday tradition but in reality it’s one of those things I squeeze in if I have the time. Though time is a premium this year as in many others, I am trying to ensure that my mood remains light as I face my first Christmas morning without my family. Lucky for me and my hips I am not a stress eater. Lucky for all my friends and family that cooking and baking are my surefire ways to combat the blues. Regardless of the amount of time I put into making cookies, I try to stick to recipes that are fairly simple and straightforward (i.e. no sugar cookies that call for Michelangelo-level of sugar icing décor).
My guidelines for sane holiday cookie baking:
- Pick simple recipes. Who doesn’t love those impeccably decorated sugar cookies with multicolored icing worthy, so beautiful and perfect, they deserve to be on display at a museum? I make those; just not at Christmas. (One year, I made gingerbread men in July and decorated them in beach wear.) The most complicated cookie I make is biscotti, which really isn’t that complicated (shape the dough into a loaf; bake once; slice; bake a second time; done).
- Make one or two types of cookie. There’s no rule that says you have to make a cookie for each day of the month (although at the rate I am going, I’ll have a cookie for each day of the week). Besides, as I always find cookies being gifted to me, there’s no need for me to go crazy with the cookie making.
- Spread out the baking. My goal this year was to make a different cookie each weekend, starting with the first weekend in December. Then my son’s school made it to the playoffs in NCAA’s Division I football—he’s in the marching band. Seeing him perform pretty much trumps time in the kitchen.
- Delegate cookie making to your best helper. In my case, that would be my son. The same one who is busy with marching band beyond the campus winter break. So I guess that won’t happen this year. But when he has had free time, I make him follow my recipes. We’ve had some mixed results but everything has been edible.
- It’s okay to use a hack when participating on a cookie exchange. My favorite hack is tip number one listed in my latest article for Red Tricycle (yes that was a gratuitous plug).
Cookie Butter & Almond Rounds
As I was enjoying one of the peanut butter cookies I had made, a light bulb went off. What if I swapped the peanut butter with cookie butter? Since I had a jar of Biscoff® Cookie Butter—which is literally Biscoff cookies (the kind served on airline flights) pureed into a spreadable paste—I decided to try it. Cookie butter reminds me of Nutella® with none of the false pretense of health. (You have to respect a product like cookie butter whose whole existence is for pure indulgence.) I threw in almonds because I thought it would make the cookie taste similar to a Belgian almond thin cookie, one of my favorites. The finished product tastes like a heartier version of the almond thin cookie. Any brand of cookie butter, like Trader Joe’s Speculoos®, would work for this recipe.
½ cup of butter, softened
½ cup of cookie butter (like Biscoff® or Trader Joe’s Speculoos®)
1 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
½ cup of granulated sugar, plus 1 cup more to roll dough in
½ cup of packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon vanilla
- Move rack in oven to center and preheat to 375°.
- In a mixing bowl beat butter and cookie butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.
- Add ½ cup of flour, the sugars, egg, baking soda, baking powder and vanilla. Beat till combined.
- Beat in remaining flour.
- If dough is too soft, cover and chill dough till easy to handle.
- Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in additional sugar.
- Place 2-inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a juice glass until the dough is about ¾ inch thick.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes till bottoms are lightly browned.
- Cool cookies on a wire rack. Makes two dozen cookies.