christmas-cookies.jpgWhat’s your Christmas tradition? Almost everyone has one – from Christmas eve PJ’s for everyone in the family to a family outing to the local Christmas tree farm, there’s always something that’s a must-do every holiday season.

We have a few Christmas traditions over at my house. We do Christmas eve PJs for everyone, even the pets, and we always have to go to the local mall and donate a few toys to the local toy bureau. But my absolute favourite Christmas tradition is my annual bake day for my favourite Christmas cookies.

Every year, for one full day, I bake Christmas cookies for hours and hours. By the time I’m finished, my convection oven makes it feel like a sauna in my kitchen and I have almost 200 cookies to give out to friends and family. I get the kids involved by setting up a decoration station with bags of icing, sprinkles, and parchment paper to lay out their festive creations, and they’re happy for an entire day.

Although I’ll add a new recipe or two every year, I always bake the same 5 Christmas cookie recipes year after year. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them, so if you’re in the mood for baking, give them a try:

Ultimate Gingerbread

If this recipe is any indication, Jamie Oliver really knows his gingerbread. I’ve tried quite a few different gingerbread recipes over the years, but this one is my favourite.  Recipe and photo from Jamieoliver.com.

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Ingredients:

400 g shortbread

170 g coarse demerara sugar

3 level teaspoons ground ginger

40 g mixed peel, chopped

40 g crystallized ginger, chopped

70 g plain flour

1 pinch baking powder

40 g golden syrup

40 g treacle

70 g unsalted butter

 

Directions

The oven to 170ºC/325ºF/gas 3 and find a baking tray about 20x35cm. Put the shortbread, sugar and 2 teaspoons of the ground ginger in a food processor and whiz until you have crumbs. Remove 100g of the mix and keep this to one side. Add the remaining teaspoon of ginger to the processor, along with the mixed peel, crystallized ginger, flour and baking powder, and pulse until well mixed.

Melt the syrup, treacle and butter together in a saucepan big enough to hold all the ingredients. When melted, add the mixture from the food processor and stir with a wooden spoon until everything is thoroughly mixed together. Tip into the baking tray and spread out evenly. Press the mixture down into the tray, using your fingers or something flat and clean like a potato masher or a spatula. When the mix is a flat, dense and even layer, pop the tray in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Take the tray out of the oven and sprinkle the hot gingerbread with the reserved crumbs, pressing them down really well with a potato masher or spatula. Carefully cut into good-sized pieces with a sharp knife, and leave to cool in the tray before eating.

 

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

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It’s hard to believe, but this recipe doesn’t call for eggnog at all. The key to the taste is rum extract, and it’s one of those ingredients you can’t skip. I use a cookie scoop so each cookie comes out perfectly round. Recipe from tasteofhome.com.

Ingredients:


1 cup butter
1-3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 eggs
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon rum extract
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

 

 

 

Directions

 

In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening and 1-1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and extract. Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.

 

In a shallow bowl, combine the nutmeg and remaining sugar. Roll dough into 1-in. balls; roll in sugar mixture. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.

 

Bake at 400° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. 

 

 

 

 

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Candy Cane Cookies
Not only do these Candy Cane cookies look like candy canes, they taste like them too. The first few years I made them I had a hard time getting the dough thin enough to wind into the dough ‘worm’, but I find if you make one really long dough tube then cut it into pieces of the exact same size, the candy canes turn out perfectly. Recipe and photo from allrecipes.com.
 

Ingredients:

1 cup margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
1/2 cup peppermint candy canes,
crushed
1/2 cup white sugar for decoration

 

Directions

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, white sugar and confectioners’ sugar. Beat in the egg, vanilla and peppermint extracts. Combine the flour and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. Cover or wrap dough and chill for at least one hour.

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Divide dough into halves. Color one half red by mixing in the food color. Roll a small amount of each dough into a 2 inch long worm. Roll them together in a twisted rope and curve the end like a cane. Place onto prepared cookie sheets.

 

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. In a small bowl, mix together the crushed candy cane and remaining white sugar. Roll hot cookies in the sugar mixture.

Toblerone Shortbreadtoblerone-shortbread.jpg

 My favourite of my favourites, Toblerone Shortbread is so easy to make and it’s the first cookie people grab to dip in their hot chocolate. These cookies have just the right combo of melt-in-your-mouth shortbread and crunchy toblerone. Recipe and photo from food.com.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter softened (do not use margarine)

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 -3 Toblerone chocolate bars

 

 

Directions

Cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat until light and fluffy.

Add flour and cornstarch gradually while beating continuously. Beat until light.

Take one teaspoon of shortbread mixture and slightly flatten between palm of your hands.

Place one triangle of Toblerone in the center of the shortbread and top with another slightly flattened teaspoon of shortbread mixture. Seal edges of cookie perimeter with fingers.

 Bake in oven at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 12-14 minutes.

Candy Cane Snowballs

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I don’t normally like to eat candy canes. For me, they’re more of a tree decoration, but I do like to throw a bunch of them in my blender and whip them up into a fine powder. Then, I use them to sprinkle on cakes, hot chocolate, and in these cookies. Photo and recipe from tasteofhome.com.

Ingredients:

2 cups butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped pecans

8 ounces white candy coating, coarsely chopped

1/3 to 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

 

Directions

In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour and mix well. Stir in pecans. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until easy to handle.

Roll into 1-in. balls. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

In a microwave, melt candy coating, stir until smooth. Dip the top of each cookie into the candy coating; allow excess to drip off. Dip into peppermint candy. Place on waxed paper; let stand until set.

Yes, it takes an entire day to make this many cookies, but I look forward to my cookie-making day all year long. What’s your favourite all time cookie recipe? Be sure to share in the comments, and make sure you stock up on bakeware before you have your own big baking day.

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Great cookies start with a great cookie sheet

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Perfect cookies are easy when you have a cookie press

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Did someone say sprinkles?