Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas cookies/biscuits - Stained glass and chocolate-vanilla

Last year, for Christmas, Anjalie & I made Spritz cookies. This year we both wanted to try out her new baking set that she got as a birthday present. It includes a whisk, baking sheet, rolling pin and cookie cutters (shaped like tea pot, flower and a heart) - all in perfect sizes for her. She was really looking forward to rolling out and cutting the cookies. So I decided to go with simple sugar cookies and slightly modify them to make it festive for Christmas. I used to regularly make sugar cookies using Wilton sugar cookie recipe while we lived in the USA. Once we moved to the UK, I had trouble making these cookies following the same recipe. This was due to the difference in the flour. The flour in the UK is finer and cannot take the amount of butter asked for in the Wilton cookie recipe. This led to the cookies expanding a lot while baking (despite chilling and/or freezing)- leading to a blob! After trying to increase the amount of flour, a couple of times with disastrous results, I eventually found a recipe that works perfectly here in the UK- by reducing the amount of butter. I have simply jazzed up this basic recipe for Christmas using candies and milk chocolates. I am really pleased with the results. It wowed our friends and family who said it looked and tasted great and Anjalie & I had a fantastic time baking the cookies together! So, without further ado, here is the recipe...

You will need:
130g unsalted butter, softened
200g castar sugar, or granulated sugar, processed in blender or food processor for 30 seconds
½ tsp. Salt
1 large egg
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
320g cups plain flour
assorted coloured hard candies/lollies - for stained glass cookies. If they are big crush them with rolling pin - do not use food processor!
100 g milk/dark cooking chocolate (broken into small piece) - for chocolate-vanilla cookies.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (fans assisted).

In a mixing bowl add sugar and butter and

using an electric mixer or whisk, mix well until fluffy (1-2 mins)

Add the egg and vanilla extract

and blend well.

Add the flour 1/3 at a time and

blend in low speed. When all the flour is incorporated,

knead with hand to make a soft dough.

Divide dough into 2 or 3 parts and cover with cling film. You can either roll out immediately or keep it refrigerated for 1-2 hrs. If refrigerating, leave it out, to get it softened, before rolling out.

Lightly dust the work surface with icing sugar

and roll out the dough into 1/2 inch thickness.

Using an offset spatula- make sure the dough does not stick to the work surface.

cut desired shapes using cookie cutters.

Place the cookies on the baking sheets with 2-3 cms apart.

For the stained glass effect, cut small holes in the cookies.

Place the candies whole (if small) or crushed (if large).

I used a small one for the small hole.

Repeat until all dough is finished.

Bake for 12 mins, taking care not to burn the candy. When the cookies start to brown slightly on the edges remove from oven. Leave on the pan to cool completely before removing and placing on a wire rack.

For the chocky cookies. Bake the cookies (without candies) for 12 mins. Cool on a wire rack.

Melt chocolate either in a double-boiler or in the microwave (30-20 secs at a time).

Whisk now and again to avoid burning.

Dip the cookies into the melted chocolate to coat evenly or spoon melted chocolate onto the cookies. Decorate with coloured sugar or buttons etc. Alternatively, you can use royal icing/sugar paste to decorate the cookies.

Share and enjoy!

The sugar cookies are very versatile and can be jazzed up to make them all the more festive while having fun making them with children. I hope you got some ideas to make and enjoy your cookies for the holiday season from this post. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New year!

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