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Christmas cookies bring family together for holidays

By Linda Smith / For the Enterprise 

   I remember with great fondness the vast amount of Christmas cookies my grandmothers, aunts and my mother used to bake during my growing up years.  It was a normal December afternoon for someone to drop by for a visit. They were always greeted with an assortment of Christmas cookies, most skillfully decorated, and accompanied by coffee, good conversation and lots of laughter.  At least in my family, members are now spread all over the country and busy work schedules and dietary restrictions have reined in the amount of sweets prepared for the holidays.  That being said, traditions must be maintained and at least a few varieties of Christmas cookies must be baked and decorated.  What a great time to gather friends and family over for an afternoon of baking up a variety of cookies and then sharing the bounty.

Lemon Sugar Cookies

     1 1/2 c. sugar

     1/2 c. butter

     1/2 c. vegetable shortening

     2 eggs

     2 1/2 c. sifted all-purpose flour

     1 t. baking powder

     1 t. salt

     1 T. lemon zest (grated lemon peel)

     1 t. lemon flavoring

     Blend butter, shortening and sugar.  Add eggs and beat.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt, adding a small amount at a time to the mixture, blending well.  Add zest and flavoring.  Chill dough, letting the lemon flavoring set in (overnight is a great idea).  Divide dough.  On a well-floured board, roll out a small quantity at a time to about a 1/4-inch thickness.  (Dough not in use should be kept in the refrigerator.)  Cut into shapes and bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for about 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees.  Bake until set, but not brown.  Sprinkle with colored sugars before baking or frost after baking.  Note:  Dough can be frozen to bake at a later date.

Bird’s Nest Cookies

     1 c. butter

     1 c. sugar

     1 t. vanilla

     1/2 t. salt

     2 egg yolks

     2 1/2 c. flour

     2 egg whites

     Chopped nuts

     Red or green jelly

     Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla and salt.  Add egg yolks and flour.  Mix well.  Form into 1-inch balls.  Dip in slightly beaten egg whites, and then roll in nuts.  Place on greased cookie sheet.  Push thumb into center of each cookie.  Fill with red or green jelly.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until light brown.  Yields 3-4 dozen cookies.

Norwegian Cookies

     1 c. butter

     1 c. sugar

     1 egg, beaten

     2 c. flour

     1 t. almond flavoring

     21-24 maraschino cherries, cut in half

     Cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg and mix well.  Stir in flour and almond flavoring.  Chill dough for 1-2 hours.  Make balls the size of small walnuts.  Flatten balls on cookie sheet with bottom of a drinking glass dipped in flour.  Press 1/2 of a maraschino cherry onto each cookie.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the edge of the cookie is light brown.  Do not over make.  Yields 3 1/2-4 dozen cookies.

Fruitcake Cookies

     2 c. flour

     1/2 t. baking powder

     1 c. quick-cooking oats

     1 c. salted butter

     1 1/2 c. light brown sugar

     1/4 c. unsulphured molasses

     2 t. brandy

     2 t. vanilla extract

     2 t. almond extract

     2 eggs

     1/2 c. raisins

     1 c. chopped pecans

     1/2 c. chopped almonds

     2 c. (13.5 oz.) candied cherries, chopped

     In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and oats.  Mix well and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add the molasses, brandy, vanilla, almond extract and eggs.  Beat until smooth.  Add the flour mixture and dried fruits and nuts.  Blend at low speed just until combined.  Do not over mix.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheet 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until set.  Let cookies cool for a few minutes on the pan and then transfer to a cool surface.  Top with a candied cherry half, if desired.  Yields 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

Brown Sugar Cutouts

     1 c. butter, softened

     1 c. firmly packed brown sugar

     1 t. vanilla

     1 egg

     2 1/2 c. flour

     1/2 t. soda

     1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

     In large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and egg; blend well.  Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off.  Stir in flour and baking soda; mix well.  Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours for easier handling.  On floured surface, roll out dough, one-third at a time, to 1/8-inch thickness.  (Refrigerate dough not being rolled.)  Cut out cookies with a 2-inch cutter.  Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees for 5-8 minutes.  Remove from cookie sheets immediately.  Cool completely.  Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Swedish Gingies

     1 c. butter, softened

     1 1/2 c. white sugar

     1 egg, beaten

     1 1/2 T. grated orange rind

     2 T. dark corn syrup

     1 T. water

     3 1/4 c. sifted flour

     2 t. soda

     2 t. cinnamon

     1 t. ginger

     1/2 t. cloves

     Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg and beat.  Add rind, corn syrup and water.  Sift dry ingredients together and add to mixture.  Mold with hands into 2 rolls about 10 inches long and 2 inches thick.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill overnight or longer.  Slice thinly with a sharp knife.  Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes.  May sprinkle with sugar or top with an almond half.