Christmas Cookie Round-up 2012

Haul out the holly! It’s time for a holly, jolly holiday!

(10 points to anyone who can guess which Broadway musical I am referencing)

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Yesterday, I invited a few friends over for a Christmas party. Being the over-achiever that I am, and not wanting to put anyone out with my dietary restrictions, I decided to make all the cookies myself. I heated up my little apartment with the stove going all day as I rolled and mixed and sprinkled powdered sugar & cinnamon. It was like Christmas exploded in my kitchen!32401_10101635107712882_1324212968_n

Confession: I have an almost compulsive need to completely clean the kitchen between baking each kind of cookie. I put all of the ingredients away, wash and dry the bowls and spoons and return them to their respective cupboards, and wipe down the counters. Then, I recenter myself, pull out the needed ingredients, and start on the next cookie. Some might call it obsessive. I prefer to think of it as organized.

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Anywho… I went through my cookie recipe archives and pulled out a few of my favorites. The star of the evening? Definitely the Vegan Mexican Wedding Cookies, which we discovered have about 5 other names, depending on which country you hail from. (ie Russian Tea Cookies, German Pfeffernussen…. the list goes on) Whatever you chose to call them, they are delicious!

I also found a recipe for homemade Cinnamon Ornaments. With only three ingredients, cinnamon, applesauce, and cloves, they are incredibly easy and make fun gifts for party attendees!

Now, strap on that apron, put on your Santa hat, and get baking!

(Hint: Click on the cookie name to see the recipe.)

Vegan Mexican Wedding Cookies

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Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

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Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

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Mint Chocolate Fudgie Babies

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Cinnamon Ornaments

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Cacao Nib Meringues

Colorado is a notoriously difficult state for bakers.

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Recipes must be tweaked to include more liquid (or less flour, whichever you prefer), extra leavening agents, and increased oven temperatures. Baking in the high altitude and dry climate is enough to intimidate even the most seasoned of bakers, not to mention a gluten-free one, at that!

Before moving here from Florida, I did quite a bit of research on the changes that would need to be made to my recipes, and, thankfully, the transition hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I had imagined. In fact, Colorado has allowed me to bake something Florida would never have allowed, Meringues!!!!

Meringues are fluffy, pillows of whipped egg whites and sugar that require a rather dry climate in order to be baked. The inherent Florida humidity that wreaked havoc on my naturally curly hair would have also wreaked havoc on the meringues’ texture. Too much moisture in the air ruins any possibility of accomplishing the hollow, crumbly interior of a true meringue. Colorado, however, is practically Saharan in comparison, and the perfect climate for baking meringues.

My first attempt turned out to be a winner! I used the below recipe, courtesy of the incomparable Joy the Baker, substituting an ingredient or two here and there. Since I do not keep white sugar in the house, I used turbinado sugar, which gave my cookies a darker color than traditional meringues. The taste? Perfection!

Now separate those egg whites and “whip it! Whip it good!”

Cacao Nib Meringues

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

adapted from Joy the Baker – Vanilla Bean and Cacao Nib Meringues

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Ingredients:

  • 3 large Egg Whites, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup Turbinado Sugar
  • 1 tsp Bourbon Vanilla Extract
  • pinch of Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 3 Tblsp Cacao Nibs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine turbinado sugar and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  4. Using a stand mixer, whip egg whites on medium speed until frothy.
  5. Add salt and cream of tartar and increase speed to medium-high. Beat until egg whites are at the soft peak stage. Egg whites will be very frothy with small bubbles.
  6. Slowly add the sugar/vanilla mixture to the egg whites, increase the mixer speed to high, and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form. Egg whites will be “spoonable”.
  7. Remove bowl from the stand mixer and gently fold in the cacao nibs.
  8. Spoon 2 heaping Tblsp of egg white mixture per cookie onto parchment lined baking sheet. Should equal about 12 cookies.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 60-70 minutes until lightly browned and hollow sending when lightly flicked with a finger.
  10. Cool completely before removing from the parchment paper.