I made my mom’s cookie recipe, and you won’t believe what happened!

 

A Christmas cookie that stands the test of time

By Ellen Margulies

Just kidding about that top headline, BTW. And now for our regularly scheduled blog:

For every Christmas since I can remember, one cookie has always made an appearance somewhere within the Margulies enclave: the Peanut Blossom, typically plainer than its rolled and cookie-cuttered brethren and, unlike its sprinklier sisters, adorned only with a single chocolate kiss.

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Probably the Christmas cookie preferred by the Baby Jesus.

It’s such an ingrained holiday tradition in my family that we tend not to eat it any other time of year. There are lots of recipes out there to choose from, some of which call for things like shortening (no), milk (nope) or almond flour (hell no) and everything in the centers from Rolos (no) to peppermint (hopefully not with peanut butter).

As for me, I thought I’d stick with Mom’s classic. She’s been using this recipe since the 1960s, and it’s a good one. I had to fight with her to give up the recipe — “You’re going to post this on the Internet, aren’t you!” — but she ultimately relented because I am her favorite (sorry, Jan, Karen, Paul, Cyd, Nola, William, Josh and especially Kaiti).

Granted, I did go a little off-book today. My dough seemed really crumbly when I was rolling the balls, so I either over-floured or under-peanut buttered. Before rolling the second batch, I added in a heaping spoon of peanut butter and remixed the dough. Things went much more smoothly after that. All told, I ended up using about three-quarters of a cup of peanut butter instead of the half-cup called for in the recipe.

dough and sugars
The dough was a bit too crumbly-wumbly, as the Brits would say; go ahead and try some colored sugars. But try the basic recipe first!

I also experimented with red and green sugar sprinkles, because Christmas, and for the last four cookies at the end I went completely wild and stuffed two with red-and-green M&Ms and did the traditional cross-hatch on the other two.

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Home cookies, not suitable for public outings.

 

All told, I got 40 cookies, with all but the test dry-crumbly batch and the last 4 wonky experimental cookies going to the client office party tonight. Also, these things are a total beyotch to transport. Cookies be breaking apart, kisses be falling off. I suggest doing this as a fun togetherness activity with kids or when you plan to feed a big crew at home. Unless you have the money and cargo space to load about 4 at a time into a tray to take them wherever you’re going.

 

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We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

I also got the warm fuzzies from remembering all those Christmases of yore — did I ever mention I’m from Yore, NC? — and getting into an argument with my mom about why she should always, always share the recipe. (Love you, Mom! MWAH! You’re my favorite mom of all time!!!)

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Chocolately, peanut-buttery perfection.

Hopefully, these will inspire you to try this recipe or share your own baking tradition with us (hop on in those comments — don’t be shy!). Don’t forget to check out Laura’s blog from yesterday, which is also all about dat Christmas cookie. Next up for me, baking-wise? Wrestling my mom’s shortbread recipe away from her. Maybe if I promise not to post that one…

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Mickey’s Super-Secret Totally Awesome Peanut Blossoms: The Ellen Edition

1 3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup room-temperature butter

1/2 to 3/4 cup peanut butter, add more as needed to make dough pliable

1/2 cup sugar, plus another ½ cup for rolling

1/2 firmly-packed brown sugar

1 unbeaten room temperature cage-free egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

Assorted sprinkles or sugars in smaller bowls if you’re feeling funky

40 or so unwrapped Hershey’s candy kisses, plus more for snacking I mean quality control

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375.
  2. Sift together first three ingredients. Or, if it’s no longer 1968 where you live, put them in a medium bowl and shake them around a bit.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and peanut butter.
  4. Gradually add the brown sugar and the ½ cup of white sugar.
  5. Add the egg and vanilla, then blend flour mixture in gradually, mixing thoroughly.
  6. Shape dough into balls using rounded rounded spoonfuls. These won’t necessarily be perfect orbs, which is fine because you’ll be flattening them later.
  7. Put remaining half-cup of sugar in a shallow pasta bowl or on a dinner plate. Roll each ball in sugar, place on ungreased cookie sheet. (I lined mine with parchment paper.)
  8. Bake for 8 minutes, remove sheet from oven, place candy kiss on top, pressing down firmly until cookie cracks around the edges. Return to oven 2-5 minutes until golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen, plus a few more at the end to play with.

 

 

Random tips for better baking

Expect a couple of mishaps — a kitchen covered completely in sugar, including a floor that crunches when you walk, and maybe a cookie that accidentally slides off the spatula and falls into the stove, possibly. It’s all part of the holiday fun.

Don’t worry that you don’t have a fancy-ass Kitchenaid mixer or a large kitchen; I have neither of those things.

I treat myself to new baking ingredients every December, so don’t be trying to bake with some crusty old baking powder you’ve had since 2008. Your cookies will taste like crap, and it will not be my fault or, as much as we enjoy blaming her for stuff, my mom’s.

Do have the kisses unwrapped and a cooling wire tray at the ready. You can use the same cookie sheet over and over, or have two to swap out (but who wants that extra washing-up?).  

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Plan for a 10%-20% loss/theft of unwrapped kisses per person in your household.

Make sure you leave the butter and the egg out long enough to come down to room temp; it really makes a difference. I used Land O’Lakes salted butter — get the good stuff. And I’m serious about those cage-free eggs, folks. We’ve got to start taking some responsibility around here. Harumph.

 

For your first batch, maybe don’t fill up the tray. Does anybody’s first batch of a recipe really turn out? I went ahead and baked off a dozen, just to see how my oven would react, etc., but I should have just baked six at first.

Happy cookie-baking!

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Cookies that Wow

by Laura M.

The holidays can put a lot of pressure on people. Cards to be written and mailed, trees and your home to be decorated, perfect gifts to be bought for all your loved ones and…finding the most unique cookie to make for that cookie swap.

I mean, you could just phone it in. Make the standard sugar cookie with icing. But secretly, deep down inside, you want yours to be the one that everyone ooohs and ahhhhs over.

Limitations on tools, ingredients, or a well-proven family recipe might leave you feeling locked in. Just remember that you can always make things up as you go along.

Here are a few suggestions:

Mary Mayer’s Raspberry Linzer Tarts

This recipe comes from a lovely cookbook called “Recipes Remembered” curated by June Hersh. Not only does the book have yummy recipes but it also shares the inspiring stories of families who survived the Holocaust. I gave the cookbook to my friend Alecia as a Hanukkah gift but before giving it to her, I tried out this recipe. It turned out to be a nice lesson in improv.

I wanted to make my Linzer tarts in the shape of the Star of David. But I didn’t have a cookie cutter in that shape. Brilliant bestie Darla suggested I just draw it on a piece of paper and use that as a template. Why didn’t I think of that??? 🙂

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Then I used some sort of utensil, I don’t even know what you call it, to cut the shape of the cookie. It’s a device that came with a cheeseboard. You could always use a regular knife:

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I bring this up in case you ever want to improvise your own cookie shape. Don’t be deterred just because you don’t have a cookie cutter!

I should mention that the reason these cookies are such a great pick is that you probably already have all the ingredients in your cupboard:

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Stained Glass Window Cookie

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Let’s all take a moment to appreciate how PRETTY these cookies are! And how clever to melt Jolly Ranchers in the middle to make them look like stained glass windows – amiright?

I found this recipe in the latest Cooking Light issue, which I purchased to help my friend Heather’s kiddo earn money for his classroom. You can find the recipe here.

Dark Chocolate Stars

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These are also quite pretty. And easy to pass off as your own, especially when you serve them in your Grandmother’s beautiful glass dish. OK, you guessed it – they’re from Trader Joe’s. Hey – I won’t tell if you don’t.

Check in tomorrow to learn about Ellen’s favorite family Christmas cookie recipe. And feel free to share your favorite in the comments below!