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Christmas Cookies are For Giving

Christmas Cookies are For Giving 
by Kristin Johnson and Mimi Cummins

Cranberry Decadent Cookies

2 cups (500 ml) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 ml) Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) baking soda
1/2 cup (125 ml) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (125 ml) solid vegetable shortening, softened
1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 ml) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) instant coffee granules
1 cup (250 ml) white chocolate chips
1 cup (250 ml) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (250 ml) dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease two baking sheets or line them with parchment paper. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda, and set aside.

In a large bowl beat butter, shortening, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully combined before additions. In a small cup, mix together the vanilla and the coffee until the coffee is dissolved, then add to the butter mixture; beat to combine. Gradually add dry ingredients, mixing until combined. Stir in white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and dried cranberries.

Drop 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of dough at a time onto baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until firm. Let cool for 1 minute then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 1 month. Makes about 48 cookies. These cookies are excellent for shipping.

Apricot Foldovers

1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, softened
1 cup (250 ml) sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 cup (325 ml) sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
1 cup (250 ml) apricot preserves
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar

Beat the butter and cheese until light and fluffy, then blend in the flour and water until just combined. Chill the dough for 4 to 5 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 375°F (190°C). In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the preserves and sugar until the mixture boils and is smooth. Set aside to cool. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a 10-inch (25
cm) square, cut into 2½-inch (6.5 cm) squares. Put 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of the preserves in the center of each square, fold over diagonally and seal the edges with the tines of a fork.

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool for 1 minute then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes about 30 cookies. These cookies should be hand-delivered.

The Giving Christmas Cookie (Vanillekipferl)

This traditional Austrian Christmas cookie from our story is laced with the flavor of real vanilla. Delicate and buttery, it truly melts in your mouth. Simple, yet elegant.

2/3 cup (150 ml) sliced blanched almonds
1/3 cup (75 ml) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 ml) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 2/3 cup (400 ml) plus 2 tablespoons (30 ml) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) salt
½ cup (125 ml) superfine vanilla sugar (see below), or superfine sugar

1/2 cup (125 ml) superfine vanilla sugar (see below), or superfine sugar Place the almonds in a food processor and grind very finely. In a mixing bowl, combine the almonds, butter, sugar, and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour and salt until incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 325°F (170°C). Divide the dough into 6 portions and work with one portion at a time while you keep the rest in the refrigerator. Lightly flour your hands and pinch off enough dough to make a 1-inch (2.5
cm) ball. Knead it for a few seconds to make it malleable, then form it into a crescent shape and place on an ungreased baking sheet. If you have trouble with the dough becoming too soft while forming the crescents, run your hands under cold water to cool them off after forming every 3 to 4 cookies.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are just starting to take on a golden color. Cool cookies for about 7 minutes on the baking sheet and then roll gently in superfine vanilla sugar while still warm. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month. Makes about 48 cookies. Because they are so fragile, these cookies are best to give by hand delivery.

Note: To make vanilla sugar, fill a quart jar halfway up with sugar (in the case of this recipe, use superfine sugar). Then, cut a whole vanilla bean into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces and place them in the jar. Fill the jar with more sugar until it is about 2⁄3 full. Cover it tightly and shake the jar to evenly distribute the vanilla throughout the sugar. Set the jar in a cool dark place for 1 to 3 weeks. The sugar will take on the flavor of vanilla. When you are ready to use the sugar, empty the jar through a sieve in order to separate the vanilla from the sugar. You may re-use the same vanilla pieces several times before they begin to lose their effectiveness.

Emma Liebold’s Date Pinwheels

It was always a Christmas tradition as neighbors for Mimi, Kate and I to enjoy recipes from my grandmothers, Kay Liebold and Hannah-Barbara Johnson, and from my great-grandmother Emma Liebold. The warmth of family memories complements the sweet richness of the dates. Emma Liebold passed down her recipes to her family, and her love of writing to me. It’s fitting that this recipe should be in the book, because now we have the perfect fusion of family recipe and storytelling traditions.

For the filling:
2 1/2 cups (625 ml) chopped dates
2 cups (500 ml) brown sugar
1 cup (250 ml) water
1 cup (250 ml) chopped nuts
For the dough:
1 cup (250 ml) solid vegetable shortening or unsalted butter
1 cup (250 ml) powdered sugar or granulated sugar
3 large eggs, well beaten
4 cups (1 l ) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) baking powder

For the filling: combine dates, sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low, cook 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in nuts. Set aside.

For the dough: beat shortening or butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking powder.

Gradually stir flour mixture into butter mixture. Divide dough in half. Roll one half of the dough between two sheets of waxed paper into a 8 x 16-inch (20 x 40 cm) rectangle. Remove top sheet of waxed paper. Spread half the filling over dough to within 1⁄4 inch of edges. Roll up, jelly-roll style, starting from one of the long sides, removing bottom sheet of waxed paper as you roll. Pinch to seal. Cut roll in half crosswise. Wrap rolls in plastic wrap, twisting the ends tightly to seal. Stand the wrapped rolls in tall drinking glasses (this helps them retain their round shape instead of flattening from lying on the refrigerator shelf) and place in the refrigerator. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Chill about 4 hours or until firm.

Pre-heat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove one roll of dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap and reshape slightly, if necessary. Cut into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) thick slices. Place 2 inches (5 cm) apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or till edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes on baking sheets, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes 90 cookies. These cookies ship well if wrapped individually to keep them from sticking together.

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