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It's hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner. The 2009 holiday season is really creeping up on me and I blame the particularly beautiful month of November (mild, sunny... wonderful!) that we've been enjoying in Montreal. I'm used to seasonal grey and somber weather that tends to push me into thinking about the holidays early as a way to lift my spirits. Not so much this year. With just over 3 weeks to go, I've barely made a dent in my Christmas shopping and I have yet to send out invitations or make plans for holiday entertaining.
I'm not completely unprepared though. I did have the good sense to think ahead and invite a bunch of ladies over for an old fashioned cookie swap. If you've never heard of one of these, the idea is simple and brilliant. Instead of baking up a frenzy during the already busy month of December (trying to have as many yummy baked goods and tasty treats on hand for when family and friends are visiting during the holidays) I will bake a gi-normous batch of one or two types of cookies or bars, invite others to do the same - and then we will "swap". Voila! The results will be a scrumptious variety of home-made desserts to offer my guests. Not bad, huh?
Nothing is ever quite THAT simple or THAT easy. Not for me. If I'm hosting this swap then I want to be sure that my contribution is excellent. So with 2 weeks to go before the cookie party I have begun trying out new Christmas cookie recipes! Way to take the simple out of something that is meant to simplify my holiday preparations! Ah well. I enjoy baking... and it gives me a fun activity to do with Layla. AND maybe I'll find a new favorite recipe??? Maybe.
My search for new cookie recipes led me to marthastewart.com. She has a great article on hosting a cookie swap and a ton of recipes for tasty goodies for the holidays. I started looking at all the possibilities and was overwhelmed to say the least. Not only are there way too many choices and possibilities - I really cannot believe how much time and effort some people are willing to put into making cookies. I know I'm coming from the perspective of a mom of 2 little ones, but still - some of Martha's cookies are either pieces of art or incredibly labour intensive. With that said - I gravitated towards the recipes that looked simple (and that I already had the ingredients on hand for).
The "Angelettis" looked simple - something I could make WITH Layla. Something we could start and finish in one sitting. The recipe WAS simple. The cookies were easy to make with Layla and I had a couple dozen iced and ready to take with me for lunch with friends the same day. Perfect.
(makes about 6 dozen)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla or anise extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
coarse sanding sugar (AKA sprinkles) for decorating
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer (with the paddle attachment) cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla; beat until incorporated. With mixer on, gradually add flour mixture. Beat until dough comes together.
- Scoop dough into tablespoon-size balls onto a baking sheet line with parchment paper. Bake until golden brown (about 15 minutes) Transfer to wire rack to cool.
- Meanwhile, stir together confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and 2 Tablespoons water. Place wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Once cookies have cooled, top with icing. Sprinkle with sugar and let stand until set.
(1) A very enjoyable morning with Layla - even with the "don't touch that/no you can't eat that/wait/stop...er... let's try it this way...". Sigh... My little girl is truly her father's daughter. She has a deep love for cookie dough. Once we got the cookies mixed and baked, she absolutely loved putting the sprinkles on the cookies. I think the angelettis were a good choice for this as they're not a cookie that is supposed to look perfect. I can honestly say that our cookies turned out just as nice as Martha's!
(2) A pretty tasty cookie - especially when the amount of effort required is taken into consideration. Although the dough is very sticky, the cookie has a dry (but not too dry) texture. And I really like the lemony icing - it added just enough "zing" and sweetness.
So... Will the Angelettis be my swap contribution? They were good... but... I'd like to try a few more recipes first. Chocolate espresso snow caps, buttered rum melt-aways, cranberry noels and chocolate gingerbread. (What? Believe it or not, I've drastically narrowed it down - Once I started looking at the recipes, there were just too many that looked good...)
My goodness... I am going to have sooooo many cookies!