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Opinion

Bring some holiday cheer to your life with these cookie tips, tricks

Brittney Pfenning­-Wendt

December 16, 2011

Let’s face it, as wonderful as the holidays are, they can be extremely stressful! Often you get tied up with shopping, wrapping, Christmas card writing, decorating and cleaning.

The Chicago Sun Times on Dec. 5 said, “A poll conducted by the American Psychological Association showed eight out of 10 Americans anticipate heightened stress during the holidays.” Many feel they have no time to enjoy one of the season’s greatest activities: baking Christmas cookies. With so much to do, it’s often tossed aside in despair; however I challenge you to give it a chance.

Baking Christmas cookies can actually act as a stress reliever caused by the aroma of baking spices (cinnamon and nutmeg for example) that are known for inducing happiness. Baking cookies are one of the few items on your to-do list that you can easily accomplish early with minimal hassle. By keeping the following tips in mind you can get your entire Christmas cookie baking done early, leaving plenty of time for last minute holiday shopping.

The first step is the planning process. Simply write out a list of what events you all need to bake for. These can be as big as a family-get together or as simple as a little stash of your own to fill your holiday cookie jar. Whatever the case, write it down. Next to each event place an estimated amount of cookies you’d like to bake for the occasion. You can estimate this by figuring about two cookies per person if there will be other food served. You can stick with one recipe, but it’s nice to have a little variety so I’d recommend two types.

Now you can get to the fun part: browsing through all of those delicious looking Christmas cookie cookbooks. Ask relatives for recommended recipes, search online, or pick up a few special edition magazines filled with Christmas cookie recipes. Pay attention to the ingredients and the preparation while choosing a recipe. When baking for many events you will want to choose recipes that have a simple preparation, accessible ingredients, and appeal on a plate or packaged in a cookie tin. It’s all about keeping your event in mind. A recipe may sound delicious, interesting and unique, but if it takes more time than you have available or is messy to eat, then it’s probably not your best candidate. Pick one you feel confident and comfortable making and presenting to your family and friends.

A great advantage of getting Christmas cookie baking done early is from the assurance you’ll be able to get all the necessary ingredients. Making a list allows you to see which ingredients you will need ahead of time.

As for the baking part there are a few things you’ll want to know when you are baking cookies early: their freezer life and shelf life. This will help you decide which cookies to bake first (knowing you’ll be able to freeze them well versus the ones you’ll have to bake the day of or before the event). The dough for buttery cookies (chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, and spritz), freeze great. All you need to do is prepare the dough as directed on the recipe, then use a melon baller or ice cream scoop to round the dough into balls, placing them evenly on a parchment lined cookie sheet and freezing until hard.

Once the dough balls are hard, you can seal them in an airtight container and freeze them for up to 12 weeks.

I recommend labeling the bags with the type of cookie and the oven baking temperature. As soon as you want to bake them just let them defrost for about 10 minutes on the cookie sheet while the oven preheats and you’re all set to go. Other cookies freeze well after being baked. Some common ones are tassies, which are a cream cheese and butter based cookie that are filled with a variety of fillings including pecans, chocolate, jams, and meringues. These can be baked, packaged, and froze easily between wax paper in a sturdy container. I want to note, however, if any of your cookies call for frosting or decorating with powdered sugar, it is best to do this after they have defrosted. The frosting and powdered sugar do not freeze and defrost well.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

  • 1/2 c. butter flavored shortening
  • 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 3/4 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • About 48 Brach’s milk chocolate stars or Hershey’s Kisses

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2.Cream the shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat well.

3. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl and then add to the creamed mixture. Beat this on low speed until stiff dough forms.

4. Shape the dough into 1” balls. Roll them in sugar and place 2” apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 min. or until golden brown.

5. Immediately place a chocolate star or unwrapped kiss in the center top of each cookie, pressing it down until the top edges of the cookie start to crack. Remove them from the cookie sheet to cool completely.

Brittney Pfenning­-Wendt is a columnist for the Student Voice.