Traditions start here with two dozen reader recipes tested and tasted by the Tampa Bay Times.
Edited by Janet Keeler
Photography by Scott Keeler
Cookies tested by Karen Pryslopski, Michelle Stark & Barbara Moch
Design by Lee Glynn & Alexis N. Sanchez
Edited by Janet Keeler
Photography by Scott Keeler
Cookies tested by Karen Pryslopski,
Michelle Stark & Barbara Moch
Design by Lee Glynn & Alexis N. Sanchez
Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla and gradually add flour to make a workable dough. Make small balls and place 1 inch apart on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a glass dipped in sugar (for each cookie), flatten into circles. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until firm and just lightly browned on the bottom. Remove to wire racks and cool completely.
To make filling:
Mix together the butter, confectioners’ sugar and orange extract and refrigerate until firm but still spreadable.
When ready to assemble, spread orange filling on one cookie, put another cookie on top and dip about one-quarter to one-half of cookie into melted chocolate. Dip into chopped nuts, if using, and place on waxed paper to harden.
In large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, milk and peppermint extract. In separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Divide dough in half. Add melted chocolate to one portion and mix well.
Roll each portion between two sheets of waxed paper into a 16- by 7-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Remove top sheet of waxed paper; place plain dough over chocolate dough. Roll jelly-roll style, starting with the long side. Wrap roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.
Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring between additions. Add instant coffee crystals and blend until well incorporated.
Pat batter into ungreased 9- by 13-inch baking pan in an even layer. Bake until edges are lightly browned and center is puffy, 12 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, stir sweetened condensed milk and butter over low heat until butter melts. The mixture will thicken and become smooth. Stir in vanilla or rum, remove from heat and let sit until bottom layer is done baking.
Sprinkle nuts over baked bottom layer and pour hot sweetened condensed milk mixture evenly over nuts, using spatula to spread. Return to oven and bake until top is golden and bubbling, 10 to 12 minutes. Immediately sprinkle desired amount of sea salt over bubbling toffee top. Cool slightly in pan and cut into bars. Bars can be kept up to one week in airtight container.
Combine cookie crumbs, salt and fruit in large bowl; stir well. Add 1 cup pecans, cinnamon and 1/2 cup coconut; mix well. Stir in corn syrup, honey and rum extract. Knead by hand until the mixture comes together. Shape into 1-inch balls.
Combine remaining 1/2 cup pecans and remaining 1 cup coconut on baking sheet. Roll balls in mixture to coat.
Tip: To make cookie crumbs, place cookies in food processor or blender and process until finely ground. Or place cookies in a resealable plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush cookies into fine crumbs.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in cinnamon chips.
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.
In a small mixing bowl, combine icing ingredients. Beat on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes or until fluffy. Spread over cooled cookies.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar and butter in large mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, corn syrup and vanilla, and continue beating until well mixed, about 2 minutes.
In second bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt, and add gradually to wet mixture. Stir in dried cranberries by hand. Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, then roll in sugar. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and flatten slightly with hand. Bake for 9 to 13 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
Cream butter, oil and sugar; add beaten egg, coconut extract and milk, and mix well. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and coconut in separate bowl, and add to creamed mixture. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, and flatten with fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix oil and sugar thoroughly. Add egg and beat well. Stir in molasses.
Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet ingredients. Drop by teaspoonfuls into sugar and form into balls coated with sugar. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper about 3 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes. Cookies will flatten and crinkle on top. Remove from cookie sheet and place on wire rack to cool.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
Beat shortening, brown sugar and white sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until light. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
Add the crushed pineapple and butterscotch chips and mix well by hand. Drop by teaspoonfuls on parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, sugar and butter until crumbly. Press into a 9- by 12-inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
Blend eggs, sugar, salt, baking powder and vanilla. Drain and chop cherries, reserving liquid. Stir cherries and walnuts into egg mixture. Pour over baked crust and bake 25 minutes. Cool.
For icing, combine butter, confectioners’ sugar and enough cherry liquid to make a spreadable icing. Frost cookies and sprinkle with coconut, if desired.
Times testing notes: We made our bars bigger so we ended up with 24.
Combine flour, salt and baking powder, and set aside; dissolve coffee in vanilla.
Cream butter. Slowly add sugar and beat till light and fluffy. Add egg and coffee-vanilla mixture, and slowly add dry ingredients, mixing well.
Drop from teaspoon onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely.
Dip half of each cookie into melted chocolate and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; spritz with cooking spray. (If you use Silpat liners, cooking spray is not necessary.)
In large bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, caramel topping, flour and salt; mix well. Stir in coconut, almonds and chocolate chips until well mixed. (I mix by hand in large bowl with whisk, then spoon when adding coconut, etc. It’s a very sticky and thick dough.)
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 1 inch apart onto cookie sheets. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. (If using Silpat, macaroons can cool a minute or two before removing from cookie sheet.) Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Store in airtight container.
Cream butter with confectioners’ sugar. Add skim milk, vanilla and flour and stir well. Mix in dates and nuts. Form dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake in preheated 300-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly brown. Remove from oven, and while still warm, roll balls in confectioners’ sugar to coat.
Mix first five ingredients until smooth. Spread evenly in ungreased 17- by 11-inch baking pan. (Batter will be thin.) Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes. Remove from oven and put broken Hershey pieces on top. When the pieces have melted, spread like frosting and then scatter crushed nuts on top.
Times testing note: We substituted 9 ounces of dark chocolate chips for the Hershey bars.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together flour and baking powder, and set aside.
Cream butter, sugar and egg yolks, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture. Spread thinly in a greased 15- by 12-inch jelly roll pan. Bake for 15 minutes and remove from oven.
Beat 4 egg whites until stiff. Slowly add brown sugar and almond extract. Spread over top of the baked crust. Return to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes to brown the top.
Cut into bars or squares.
Combine dry ingredients in mixer bowl. Add egg whites and vanilla and beat at low speed about 2 minutes, until glossy. Stir in walnuts.
Drop by half tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. (Batter will spread, but that’s okay.) Bake at 325 degrees until tops are slightly cracked and edges start to pull away from the paper, about 9 minutes. Remove from parchment when slightly cooled. Finish cooling on wire racks.
Times testing note: We added 1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder with the dry ingredients, which enhanced the chocolate flavor.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in peppermint extract, egg yolks and food coloring until blended.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. On low speed, add flour mixture to moist mixture until well blended.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Using handle end of wooden spoon, press a deep well into the center of each cookie.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until set. Reshape wells with handle end of wooden spoon. Cool 2 minutes, then remove from baking sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.
In a medium microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, cream and butter on high for 1 minute, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Fill each cookie well with about 1 teaspoon chocolate mixture. Garnish with candy pieces. Let stand about 1 hour until chocolate is set.
Times testing note: We put the filling in a plastic bag, cut off a corner and filled the cookies.
Cream butter; stir in sifted sugar and flour. Roll into ball (use plenty of flour on hands, dough and cutting board) and roll out to ½-inch thickness. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cut with circular cookie cutter. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes until just slightly brown on the bottom. Cool on rack.
For icing, cream butter, then gradually add sugar, vanilla and milk. Spread a dollop of icing on the center of each cookie. Top with a piece of red or green cherry.
Spray a 9-inch square pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to just overhang on two sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and rosemary. In a mixer bowl, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until fluffy, approximately 2 minutes. Turn mixer to lowest speed and add in flour mixture gradually. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan, lightly flour your clean hands and press the dough into an even layer. Place pan in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the apricot filling:
Place the apricots, sugar, honey, brandy and salt in a saucepan with 1 ½ cups of water and simmer over low heat 40 to 50 minutes, or until the apricots are fork-tender and most of the liquid has evaporated or thickened. Scrape the mixture into a food processor and puree until smooth.
To make the crumb topping:
In the mixer, combine the flour, brown sugar, pecans and salt. Mix at low speed for 15 seconds. Add the butter and mix until a sandy crumb begins to form, about 1 minute.
To assemble the cookie:
Spread apricot filling over the shortbread, then sprinkle the crumb topping over the filling. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crumb mixture has browned. Let the cookie cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan, then lift it out, using the parchment paper overhang, and cut it into bars. Store covered in the refrigerator.
Cook raisins in small amount of water for 10 minutes. Drain.
Cream brown sugar and butter; add oatmeal, baking soda and flour. Put half the mixture into a 9- by 13-inch pan and bake 7 minutes at 350 degrees.
While baking the crust, mix egg yolks, sour cream, sugar and cornstarch. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat; add raisins and vanilla, and spread over baked crust. Crumble the rest of the crust mixture over the top of the filling. Bake 25 to 30 minutes longer. Cool before cutting.
Times testing notes: When we make these again, we’ll stew the raisins in rum.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until blended. On low speed, beat in flour, mint, lime peel and salt. Gather dough into a ball and shape into a flattened round. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. On lightly floured surface, roll dough to ¼ inch thickness. With floured 2 1/4-inch fluted cutter, cut dough into 24 rounds. On cookie sheet, place rounds about 1 inch apart.
Bake 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool 5 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.
In small bowl, mix glaze ingredients with spoon until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle glaze over cookies to decorate
In a saucepan, combine cranberries and dates. Cook in a couple of tablespoons of water, covered, on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until berries pop, stirring frequently. Stir in vanilla. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in melted butter until blended. Pat half of the mixture on the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully spread filling over baked crust. Sprinkle the top with remaining oat mixture and pat gently. Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until golden. Cool on rack.
For glaze, stir together the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and enough orange juice to make a drizzle consistency. Drizzle over the top.
When you've gone to all the trouble of making Christmas cookies, do you really want to give them away on a limp paper plate draped with loose plastic wrap?
We think not.
The packaging doesn't need to cost a lot of money. It doesn't make sense to put $2 worth of cookies in a $10 box. Though pretty packages are nice to look at, they won't mean much if the cookies inside aren't wrapped for freshness. The gift of stale cookies isn't much of a present. Before you put the kid-friendly snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies into a vintage metal lunch box, place them in a zipper-type plastic bag. Press out as much of the air as you can.
Place the heaviest cookies at the bottom of the container if you are giving away an assortment.
Also, consider the cookies before selecting a container. Frosted cookies may be perfect for a platter at an open house, but the icing will get smashed if they are stacked in a box. Decorated bars and squares pose the same problem.
Beat butter and sugars until creamy. Beat in vanilla and then eggs, one at a time. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl, add to butter-egg mixture and beat on low speed until blended. Stir in red and green cherries and nuts. Drop rounded teaspoons of dough on greased cookie sheet 1 inch apart.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.
Melt chocolate chips in microwave and drizzle over cookies.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish and line with parchment paper.
Combine the jam and raspberries in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.
Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the peanut butter and beat until combined.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg-peanut butter mixture, mixing on low until just combined. Press half the dough into the prepared dish. Top with the raspberry mixture. Fold the peanuts into the remaining half of the dough and drop in clumps over the jam. Bake until the top is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
Cool in the dish for 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.