Editor's Note: Guest blogger Cynthia Orosco is the copy editor of AutoWeek magazine. She's also a baker extraordinaire. Wes has brought home her delectable baked goods often over the years and I'm always a happy recipient. She also bakes an assortment of superb vegan treats.
During the hectic time that is the holiday season, baking often falls to the bottom of the to-do list for many people. But this is my favorite time of year for baking, and for me, baking is a stress reliever. But the problem always seems to be that I find so many recipes I want to try, I never get to all of them. So this year, I broke up the baking into a couple of weekends, and the weekend before Christmas, I pulled out a few tried-and-trues and and one new recipe. (These can be found on the Web; two are from Food Network.) Wishing everyone happy baking and happy holidays!
I found this in the Sunday coupons a few years ago and have gone back to it each year since. The cookies satisfy a chocolate need and stay tender.
16 Fun Size Crunch bars, chopped
1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted
3/4 cup of confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla
3 cups of all-purpose flour
Mix everything together and roll into balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Bake at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes. When mostly cool, roll them in powdered sugar.
Candy Cane Cookies
I've seen other peppermint cookies or recipes that use candy canes or mints as a main ingredient. This one, from Food Network, I like best because you get the image and the flavor without the candy sticking to your teeth.
1 bag of sugar cookie dough (I like Betty Crocker)
1 stick of butter, melted
1/3 cup softened cream cheese (I found reduced fat works fine, if you don't want to use regular)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Red food coloring
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract (I do 2 teaspoons, for a more minty flavor)
Mix together all ingredients except for the food coloring and extract, then evenly divide the dough into two bowls. Add the extract to one, and the food coloring to the other, until you get the shade of red you want. Flour counter or board and roll chunks of each color dough into ropes about three inches long. Twist one red and one white rope into a candy cane shape, and place on a parchment-lined pan. Bake at 325 for 10 to 12 minutes.
Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
A former neighbor of ours when I was in junior high school made these wonderfully fluffy sour cream sugar cookies. I had the recipe at one point but lost it along the way. I found this recipe during a Web search, and while it doesn't yield all of the fluffiness I remember, the cookies are still good. You could make these round and sprinkle them with coarse sugar, or roll out the dough and cut into shapes (after chilling it in the fridge for about 30 minutes).
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
Sift together the dry ingredients, and separately, cream the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Combine the dry and wet, gather and cover in plastic wrap and chill. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400 and bake 8 to 10 minutes.
Aaron's Cinnamon Chocolate Cookies
When I saw this recipe in my e-mail, I couldn't resist. The finished product is crisp yet soft, and you get just a hint of the peppers as you eat the cookie. The caramel drizzle and chopped nuts (I used walnuts) give an extra sweet-and-salty note, and these cookies are even more tasty dunked in a cup of Mexican hot chocolate.
Note: I didn't have sweet butter in the house, so I used all unsalted butter, and the cookies baked and tasted just fine.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Mexican cocoa powder (or add 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon to unsweetened cocoa powder)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons sweet butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons margarine
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Generous pinch ground black pepper
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white
1/2 cup dulce de leche, optional
1/4 cup almonds, finely chopped, optional
Combine the flour, cocoa and salt and set aside. In another bowl, combine the sugars, removing any lumps, and set aside.In a mixing bowl, cream the butter. Add sugar mixture, cinnamon, peppers and vanilla. Beat in the egg white. Add flour until just combined. Gather dough, form it into a log, wrap in plastic and chill at least 45 minutes. Line pan(s) with parchment paper and heat oven to 350. Cut 1/4 rounds from the log, place on pan(s) and cook 12 to 14 minutes. When cool, drizzle with dulce de leche and sprinkle on nuts.