Time To Make Plans For Christmas Baking

IN THE KITCHEN

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The garbage trucks have carted away the turkey carcasses and there is a sizable dent in the Thanksgiving leftovers, that means it’s time to start thinking about Christmas baking.

Fortunately, my baking supplies are already tucked away in the cabinet, waiting for the holiday spirit to wake up the domestic goddess within.

I’m going for the smoother path this year: cookies, quick bread mixes and fast fudge you know the kind, mix up some sugar, margarine and evaporated milk, boil it, melt chocolate chips and marshmallow cream in it, add a splash of vanilla and a handful of nuts and it is practically set before you can get it out of the pan. I am making three versions of this stuff this year: both semi-sweet and milk chocolate and a really decadent butterscotch variety.

In the meantime, I will share some of the more traditional routes to concoct Christmas cookies:

Best Ever Sugar Cookies

1 and 3/4 cups flour

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Sift dry ingredients together. Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add dry ingredients a little at a time until well blended. Wrap dough and chill 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thick. Dip cookie cutter(s) in flour and cut out cookies. Put cookies on lightly greased sheets and bake approximately 8 minutes until lightly browned on edges. Cool on racks. Prepare icing (recipe follows), mixing until smooth. Spread on cooled cookies, add colored sugars, candies or other toppings.

Icing

2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

1 and 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder

2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons water

Mix sugar and meringue powder in a large mixing bowl. Add water and beat at low speed for 8 to 10 minutes until icing forms peaks. Separate into enough smaller bowls to accommodate the colors you plan to use on cookies. To each batch, add color, a tiny bit at a time until you have the color you like.

Molasses Spice Cookies

3 cups flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift dry ingredients together. In a large bowl beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add egg, molasses and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Gradually add flour mix to the butter mixture, mixing well. Make dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and chill for one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Flour cookie cutter(s), cut out cookies and bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes until almost firm when touched. Cool on wire racks and decorate.

Cowboy Cookies

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup shortening

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 cup chopped pecans

2 cups oatmeal

2 eggs

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

6-ounce package of milk chocolate chips

Beat sugars and shortening. Add eggs and mix well. Add dry ingredients, then add vanilla, oatmeal, pecans and chocolate chips.

Mix together well. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Makes approximately five dozen cookies.

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