Christmas 2020: Bake All The Cookies!

We made it through the Fall semester, both with Homeschool and my university’s semester! Celebrate! I still have some things to button-up in both places before I can say “Winter Break!” and even then, the kids will get a break, but I will be planning the next unit for them while also planning for my Spring course and the coming semester at the writing center. There is no such thing as a full break in academia because that’s when you have time to do all the things you didn’t have time to do during the semester. 🙂

But, with the Break comes less day-to-day demands on my time, which does help me focus on creating Holiday Magic for my family, and this year–2020–I feel we need that dose of wonder and belief even more. 2020 being 2020, aside, the past two Christmases for my family have been less than ideal. Two years ago Brian’s father passed away unexpectedly at Christmas and we also lost a few other important things. We dubbed it the Year of Loss and muddled through. Christmas that year was bittersweet.

Last year I was determined to make-up for it, but Brian had just started his business and was working long hours doing odd things and wound-up deathly ill. After two weeks of fighting it, and actually saying aloud to me, “it feels like I’m dying,” on Christmas Eve I tried to take him to the ER but he stubbornly refused, so I have one sad and alarming-looking photo of him trying to watch the kids open presents on Christmas morning before he had to retreat to go back to bed. The following day I did get him into the ER where they immediately took the obviously incapacitated grown man with a gray pallor back to treatment and referred all questions and paperwork to me. They diagnosed him with severe pneumonia and Legionnaires disease, administering fluids, inhalers, and some other things. We wonder now if he didn’t have COVID-19, though, because one of his customers at that time had recently travelled to China and Brian had been in direct, close contact with him. He certainly had all the symptoms.

Which brings us to this year: 2020. Ha! It’s been a strange and upsetting year, to put it mildly, yet it’s also another bittersweet year because we got to spend an awful lot of time together, suddenly, which is something I had desperately wanted. We did some amazing things this year in spite of the pandemic.

And so far this Christmas season, things are full of wonder and belief. It’s been magical! Chloe and I put-up the Dickens Village together as always, we found a great tree at a local tree lot and had fun decorating it, and I fussed over the mantle and added new decorations all within a week of Thanksgiving. For the 12 days before Christmas I always give the kids little presents each morning to build anticipation (socks, stickers, ornaments, crafts, etc…), we started our annual gingerbread house, we went to two COVID-safe outdoor light events in central Indiana (Christmas Nights of Lights at the Indiana State Fair and Winterlights at Newfields at the IMA), and baked cookies (so. many. cookies). It’s a week before Christmas today. Our church is doing a parking lot Christmas Eve service where we all tune-in to the radio and stay encapsulated in our vehicles right up until the end, where we all silently and with masks on get out of our cars for a candelight moment. I have a fun and fussy Christmas Eve planned with a full high tea for breakfast/lunch and a fancy dinner. It’s all been just lovely.

One thing we can’t really fix is the fact that we won’t get to see and spend time with our friends and family, so in the midst of baking this past week, I thought why not send a little bit of our Homestead to them! Baking is part of our holiday tradition and it’s also a proven stress reliever, so, I may have gone a little overboard this year: BAKE ALL THE COOKIES! Cookies make everything better. I mean, while it may sound delicious, who really wants to eat 12 dozen cookies by themselves? 🙂 I wound-up sending cookies to far-flung family across the country and sent some to the students who work at the writing center. Below are all the recipes. I have so many more I wanted to bake, but I mean, really, there’s only so many cookies one can bake/eat/mail at a time. 🙂

Peppermint (or not) Chocolate Crinkles
Yield: 1 dozen


6 T salted butter, softened
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces
1 C sugar
1 large egg
2 t vanilla extract
1 t peppermint extract (optional)
3/4 C AP flour
1/4 C cocoa powder
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
6 ounces white chocolate chips (optional)
about 1 C of powdered sugar for coating

Instructions:
In a stand mixer or mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and peppermint extracts and beat another minute.

Meanwhile, melt the bittersweet chocolate in a double-boiler, a glass shatterproof mixing bowl set over a pot of simmering water, or in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, stirring frequently. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate; residual heat will help continue to melt, so it’s best to pull it off the heat just before everything is melted and continue to stir.

Add the melted chocolate to the mixing bowl of butter, sugar, etc. . . and beat together until well incorporated. Measure the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into the bowl and beat together until a soft dough forms. Stir in the chips, if using.

Place the bowl in the fridge to let the dough rest for 15 minutes. In a separate container, add the powdered sugar. Using a cookie scoop or forming balls of dough with your hands, roll dough into 2 inch balls and coat in the powdered sugar.

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pat them down lightly with the palm of your hand, just enough to depress the ball shape a little. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 13-15 minutes. Remove and let cool before servings.

Sugar Cookies
Yield: around 2 dozen (depending on size and shape of cookie butter)


1 C salted butter, softened
1 1/2 C sugar
1/3 C powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 C vegetable/avocado/olive oil
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 t cream of tartar
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
4 – 4 1/2 C flour

Instructions:
In a stand mixer or mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and oil and mix another minute. Measure the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt into the bowl and mix to form a soft dough. Rest in dough in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes. Place cut-outs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 6-8 minutes (bake time will depend on thickness and size/shape of cut-out, as well as desired done-ness. I prefer mine to have a soft chew rather than a snap).

Eat plain of frost with desired frosting. For mailing I did a simple water/powdered sugar/vanilla glaze to make it shelf-stable. For enjoying at home I always prefer buttercream, though royal icing will allow you a wider range of decorating choices (see example of decorated buttercream cookie above).

These were the first cookies I made this season, and since they were separate from the boxes I planned to send, I used my favorite cutters: snowman, mitten, and snowflake. 🙂

Shortbread Cookies
Yield: 1 dozen (depending on size and shape of cut-out)


1/2 pound (2 sticks) of salted butter
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
2 C flour
1/2 C powdered sugar

Instructions:
In a stand mixer or mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter until incredibly light and fluffy–this is important to help the shortbread have lightness since there is no raising agent. Add the extracts and blend well. Add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy again. Measure the flour and beat in until a dough forms. Rest dough in the fridge for 15 minutes prior to rolling out. I always make these smaller shapes than the sugar cookies (stars and candy canes instead of snowmen, mittens, and Christmas trees).

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes. Place cut-outs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 6-8 minutes (bake time will depend on thickness and size/shape of cut-out, as well as desired done-ness. I prefer mine to have a soft chew rather than a snap).

I always glaze these with a mixture of water, powdered sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. I dip the entire cooled cookie in, and then lay on parchment or wax paper to dry. After a few moments, top with festive sprinkles and let continue to dry until the glaze is hard.

Italian Wedding Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen


1 1/2 C salted butter, softened
1 C powdered sugar
3/4 t salt
1 1/2 C almond flour
1 1/2 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 t almond extract
3 C flour
powdered sugar for coating

Instructions:
Cream the butter until very light and fluffy. Again, there is no raising agent, so we want light and fluffy butter for a light (not too dense) cookies. Add the extracts and powdered sugar and continue to beat. Measure the almond flour and beat in to the douguh. Measure in the salt and regular flour and beat until a dough forms. Using a cookie scoop or forming balls of dough with your hands, roll dough into 2 inch balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-20 minutes (being careful not to brown them!). Remove the from oven and let cool only slightly (enough to handle) then roll in powdered sugar, being careful as they are going to be more fragile as they cool. Once completely cool, roll them again in the powdered sugar.

Amaretti Cookies (original recipe found on Pinch Me I’m Eating)
Yield: 1 dozen


2 egg whites
1 t lemon juice
2 1/4 C almond flour
1 3/4 C powdered sugar
1 pinch sea salt
1/4 t baking powder
1 t orange zest
1 T almond extract
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 C additional powdered sugar for coating

Instructions:
In a stand mixer or mixing bowl with an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and lemon juice until stiff peaks form. Sift together the almond flour, powdered sugar, sea salt, and baking powder. Fold in three batches carefully into the egg whites, being mindful to not deflate them as much as possible. Add in the extracts and orange zest and fold in.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and prep a container with the powdered sugar. The dough will be quite sticky, so I find a cookie scoop the easiest tool. Scoop out the dough and roll carefully in the powdered sugar, then place on the baking sheet. Do this for all the dough. Let rest on the counter for at least 1 hour. Bake in a preheated 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes.

Gingerbread Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen


3/4 C salted butter, softened
1 C sugar
1 egg
1/4 C light molasses
2 C flour
1 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground cloves

Instructions:
Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Combine the molasses with the egg and whisk to combine, then add to the creamed butter and mix. Add all the spices and mix well. Measure in the flour, baking powder, and salt and combine until a dough forms.

Rest the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes. Place cut-outs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 7-10 minutes (bake time will depend on thickness and size/shape of cut-out, as well as desired done-ness).

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen


1 C salted butter, melted
1 1/2 C brown sugar, packed
1/4 C white sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 T milk
1 T vanilla extract
2 1/2 C flour
1 t sea salt
1 t baking powder
1 1/2 C chocolate chips

Instructions:
Over the years I’ve tinkered with my base chocolate chip cookie recipe. Sometimes I want a chewy, rich cookie (like the one above) and sometimes I want something lighter (in which case I’ll do half-and-half brown sugar and white sugar), and sometimes I want something with a bit of a snap (do the sugar change mentioned above and split baking powder into half powder and half baking soda). No matter how you do it, creaming the melted butter with the sugars to a caramel-like consistency is key, as is resting the dough. The sea salt is also important because it off-sets the sweetness of the cookie.

Melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwave. Measure both sugars into a stand mixer or mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Pour the melted butter over the sugars and beat until caramel-like in consistency (the sugars will be dissolved and it will come together, so you shouldn’t be able to see a separation of butter and sugar). Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla and beat. Measure the flour, salt, and baking powder into the bowl and beat until a dough forms. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Rest the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes (our butter was melted, which warmed the dough-up substantially, so we need a longer resting time). Using a cookie scoop or forming balls of dough with your hands, roll dough into 2 inch balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 12-14 minutes. Remove and let cool before servings.


Published by kelinmchull

Wife, mother, student, dreamer/doer, adventurer, wannabe farmer, writer, and all around curious gal.

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