Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christmas Cookie Conundrum

With a delicious Thanksgiving dinner under my belt, my thoughts, of late, have turned to Christmas. Christmas gift shopping, Christmas decorating (I was certain I wasn't going to put up the tree this year . . . but I bet I will!), and Christmas cookie baking.

Again, I thought I would maybe not bake this year -- what will I do with all of those cookies? In years past, I've made between two and four different recipes, always including gingerbread dudes and my Grandma's Christmas Cookie recipe (frosted with peppermint buttercream and covered with sprinkles,) and possibly one or two new favorites.

This year, I have a problem. I have, um, ten recipes I'd like to try? Now, obviously, I'm not going to make all ten recipes. I do plan on boxing up some cookies to take to my coworkers, and will probably take cookies to Dan's family over Christmas, and my parents and Grandparents the weekend following Christmas, so I'll use up all of the cookies this year.

Still, ten recipes is a LOT of baking. The real trouble is, I've selected ten very diverse cookies . . . and I need YOUR help making a couple of cuts! I'd like to get the list down to six recipes, but I think I'd be willing to go up to eight if I just can't cut one or two options. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the following ideas -- ones that you think are must-keeps, ones that you think I should cut, even just rank them from best-sounding to ok-sounding!

These are basically an almond windowpane cookie and apricot jam sandwich that you dip in a chocolate glaze. I've never made these before. Pros: They look absolutely stunning (a cover recipe from Eating Well a few Christmases ago,) and I love the flavor combination of apricots and almonds. They also call for whole-wheat flour. Cons: They take several steps (including making the dough, rolling and cutting (including little windows,) baking, cooling, filling, and dipping in the glaze;) and the glaze calls for corn syrup, albeit only 1 1/2 teaspoons.

I made this recipe last weekend without eggs, with somewhat, erm, flat and sticky results. I'd like to give the recipe another go. Pros: The flavor of these bars was spot-on blondie fabulousness. Also, bar cookies are a snap to make -- they take almost no time. Cons: The cookies were a little bit sweet for my tastes (hopefully the addition of fresh cranberries will balance them a bit better.)

This is a slice-n-bake chai-spiced shortbread that I'm excited to try for the first time. Pros: The dough can be made ahead and frozen, which would make baking a snap on the day I plan to have my baking marathon, and I think the combination of spices sound delicious and interesting. Cons: They call for powdered sugar as the only sweetner, which is pretty processed, as well as white flour.

Aren't merengues fun? Pros: Flavor combination first and foremost, with the portability and storability being close seconds. Cons: Merengues can be a bit persnicketty to prepare, and can go soft if stored for too long.

I'd like to try my hand at a little candy-making this year, and this was the most interesting-looking of the brittle recipes I have on hand. Pros: Brittles are pretty foolproof as long as you don't burn the sugar, and well, sweet curry and sunflower seeds just sound addictive, don't they? (I could buy some hot curry powder for extra-fun good times!) Cons: Calls for corn syrup.

I thought this recipe might be a nice alternative to gingerbread dudes this year -- less rolling/cutting/icing work, with some of the same flavors. Pros: Uses whole-wheat pastry flour and a whole host of amazing spices, as well as some molasses and candied ginger! Also, it's a drop cookie, so I could freeze the dough ahead of time. Cons: Calls for several ingredients I don't typically keep on hand, so they may end up hanging out in my cupboards for an indefinite period of time.

Is this one a gimme? Maybe not. Pros: Biscuit-like dough is less sweet than a traditional sugar cookie, so they balance all that frosting and sprinkle action quite well. They also look very festive when all decked out! Also, the dough can be made ahead and frozen. Cons: Rolling, cutting, baking, frosting, and sprinkling takes a long time. Also, should I veer from making the "same ol' thing?"

I haven't tried this recipe yet, but have made biscotti in the past, and was surprised at how easy they were to make. Pros: Pine nuts with a hint of lemon . . . need I say more? Biscotti also keep well. Cons: Double-baking can be quite time-consuming. Also calls for white flour.

Ohmigod do I love Russian Tea Cakes, but everyone makes them, right? Pros: Calls for whole-wheat pastry flour and canola oil (instead of butter.) Cons: Lotsa powdered sugar; lots of people make these, right? Also, the double-dipping in powdered sugar can be a bit time-consuming.

These sound decadent and incredible, and play up that whole sweet-salty trend (using coarse sea salt in the batter,) that's been going on lately. Pros: Drop cookie, so I could make the batter ahead of time, drop out the dough and freeze it, so it would be all ready to go on baking marathon day. Plus, sweet-salty chocolately peanutty goodness . . . yum. Cons: White flour; also, is it too much like an ordinary chocolate-chip cookie?

Ok. Let me know what you think!


Hippie Girl said...

Okay - here is my suggestion! I would axe the following:
Merengue ones - due to the fact that if you plan on giving them away they might 'soften' during transport.
Biscotti - too time consuming - keep it as simple as possible.
Grandmas cookies - out with old and in with the new.
Princess Tea cookies - like you said, everyone passes these around during the holidays.
These are just my suggestions! Good luck - you'll have fun even if you decide to make all 10!! ha ha

Shawn Powers said...

I'm not a fan of butterscotch, so for me the blondies would be out. The others all sound quite lovely, but I'll vote you DON'T axe:

Almond Apricot. Yum.

Chai Shortbread. Can't go wrong with Chai.

Merengue. You had me at coconut. Just don't store them long. :)

Pine Nut Biscotti. Just sounds intriguing. And regarding the white flour? Honestly, with a list like this, the white flour isn't the biggest concern. ;)

Oh, and I forgot to mention the Princess Tea Cakes. Powdered sugar should be outlawed. I abhore it. I'm in the minority, I realize, but GAWD what a mess.

Anonymous said...

I am thinking of holiday cookies already too! I love this post!

I have made biscotti in years past as holiday gifts, and frozen them far in advance, and they have always been met with rave reviews from co-workers (and they were all vegan too!)--so I say keep the biscotti. They are a nice change from the typical cookie, and they really are not all that time consuming (the double baking isn't that bad). Oh, and, you can always sub WW pastry flour for the white flour it calls for--I did with mine and they were all fine!

SO--lets see, I would CUT the Apricot Almond Sandwich Cookies--they sound very time consuming and why buy a whole jar of corn syrup for only 1 1/2 teaspoons?!

I would also cut the meringues, because, like you say, they can be a little difficult to bake and you wouldn't be able to make them too far in advance.

The rest sound so good! If you really want to cut more, I would say to try the new things at cut Grandma's cookies--if you make them every year, maybe people will appreciate a change?

I hope that was a little helpful, and you will have to let us know what you decide to make! We should totally do a cookie baking day together--I was going to start kind of soon and freeze stuff, actually!


Anonymous said...

i will keep the APRICOT-ALMOND SANDWICH COOKIES, even that the recipe is long the flavor sounds so good, and i think they will look awesome. also i will keep BUTTERSCOTCH BLONDIES WITH CRANBERRIES AND PECANS and last the PINE NUT BISCOTTI ounds really good too.

bazu said...

Fun! Whatever you make will end up tasting great, I'm sure! Like everyone else, I say keep the apricot-almond cookies, the chai shortbread also sounds great. So do the biscotti.

I wonder if blondies are "special" enough, i.e. would they stand out against a sea of other cookies? And I'd definitely eliminate meringues- I never used to have success with them, they get soft, and I'm not sure everyone likes them.

Oh, and I know I'm in the vast, vast minority, but the chocolate/peanut combination doesn't do anything for me. I look forward to seeing what you pick! I need help picking too- and time's running out- eep!

Mary Worrell said...

Hey Catherine...good to hear from you!

I say you cut the following:

- chai
- curried brittle
- And maybe the biscotti, but I like the sound of those.

I'm basing these on my flavor preferences, really, but they all sound impressive and interesting. I think you'll have winners anyway you go.

Jody from VegChic said...

I'm a huge fan of salty chocolate/peanut mixed together. Before going vegan, my fav Ben & Jerry's flavor has chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels.

The blondies sound awesome and remind me a bit of the cookie of the season this summer from ABC which I was in love with.

Chai snickerdoodles or a variation were really good. I used Celine's recipe and made it into mexican mocha snickerdoodles which were outstanding.

Though I love to try interesting new cookie flavors, I've always got a soft spot for chocolate chip cookies. At one time I tested a choc chip recipe for you that was out of this world. Make that with some dried cherries and pecans!

Lisa S. said...

Hi! I know it's my first visit to your blog, not sure I even *get* an opinion here but here goes nothing...

First, um, yum? I'm so hungry now just reading these descriptions!!

Second, I would cut out:

apricot sandwiches - I just plain don't like apricot, but they sound way too time consuming anyway.

tea cakes - yeah, everyone makes them and I HATE working with powdered sugar. Too messy.

biscotti - I'd only make it if I were also providing the coffee into which to dunk it. You'd have to have a careful pairing for that one with pine nuts.

But I would keep grandma's cookies. No matter what, it's still a comfort to make at least one traditional family recipe.

Good luck!!!

madeinalaska said...

okay.. I totally see your dilemma!!
I personal would x- the merengue one.. just because it could be temperamental and who needs that?

I am w/ Lisa J.. on the apricot too! wayy tooo time consuming! same w/ the biscottii.. I have never made that but, dont'cha have to bake it twice?? and the much needed dipping? tea or coffee would be needed???

My top three would be the ever so time consuming sunflower candy... soorrrryyy just crazy that way! sounds good to me! and of course I agree w/ everyone else w/ your grandmas cookies... tradition is everything!!! and of course for me anyway the SWEET AND SALTY PEANUT CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES.. I am way more of a salty then sweet fan so this works for both sides!!!

soo far I don't think we are all helping! We all seem to have a different opinion! I hope more bloggers chime in and cinch it for ya!!
take care

Crystal said...

Catherine - I think you should keep the following:

Chai Shortbread: they sound very interesting and you can control the amount you bake, so it will last you into the new year

Curried Sunflower Brittle: I love brittle! I love sunflower seeds! Not sure about the curry, but what the's something different.

Sweet & Salty Peanut Chocolate Chunk - yum - these sound great. I love sweet and salty...well, who am I kidding, I just like salty anything, so I'd be up for these.

Pine Nut Biscotti - biscotti is so braindead easy. Sure you have to bake it twice, but who cares. It's good without being overly sweet.

As for nixing the rest, I guess I'm not much of a fan of powdered sugar on cookies. Such a mess!

I don't know about meringues. I don't think I like them.

HAVE FUN!!! Let's get together in January. Ryan will be done with school and we'll have more free time.


Anonymous said...

These are the ones I'd make.


The almond pane ones sound like a "pane" in the ass if you ask me.
Butterscotch blondies - poor results once. Don't chance it for your special cookie giveaway. Try to perfect the recipe and then add it for next year.
Merengues - Eggs = YUCK!
Ginger thins, too similar in flavor to the chai ones. I've never been a big crispy cookie type of person either.
Grandma's - I agree, out with the old.

theONLYtania said...

Personally I just don't think the sunflower thing sounds good, so you could cut that out easy! I think cutting out the apricot ones would save you a lot of time too. So that way you could make more kinds if you save on the level of difficulty.

LEO said...

From someone who enjoys eating sweets much more than making them, I'd keep:

- Apricot-almond cookies
- Chai shortbread
- Sunflower brittle
- Grandma's
- Tea cakes
- Merengues

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

Me thinks you gotta keep these:

sweet & salty

Need any cookie testers?!

Judy said...

I can only find two that should be cut, the apricot almond ones and the curried brittle, neither of which appeal to me at all. But the other 8 sound fabulous and I would make them all and donate the remainders. Someone, somewhere, will be without cookies this year, and that simply isn't fair. Why not help them out? :)

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Quite a delicious dilemma you've got here!! Personally, I'd KEEP the following:

- Butterscotch Blondies w/Cranberries & Pecans

- Ginger Thins

- Grandma's Christmas Cookies

- Princess Tea Cakes

I'd cut the rest, but that's only because of personal preference of using the most wholesome ingredients as possible (I NEVER bake with refined flours, refined sugars, etc.)