Sizzle Simmer Sauté Sylvania – Sugar and Spice holiday cookies

Sugar and spice; holiday cookies from around the world
by Jennifer Ruple
PUBLICATION DATE: 11.29.16

Everyone has their favorites. Whether your holiday cookie repertoire comes from cherished family recipes or from friends during a cookie swap, here are a handful from around the world worth adding to your list:

Biscochitos
Officially dedicated as New Mexico’s state cookie in 1989, biscochitos are typically made at Christmas. Their unique flavor comes from anise seed and brandy.

Biscochitos, New Mexico’s state cookie
Biscochitos, New Mexico’s state cookie

Yield: 5 dozen

2 cups sugar, divided
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups lard or vegetable shortening
2 eggs
2 teaspoons anise seeds, toasted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup brandy

Heat the oven to 350 F. Grease cookie sheets. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine ½ cup sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Cream lard until fluffy. Add remaining 1½ cups sugar, eggs, and anise seeds and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Combine with shortening mixture. Add brandy and mix thoroughly.

On a well-floured surface, roll dough out to about ¼ inch thick and cut into desired shapes.

Sprinkle cookies with cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Remove to cooling racks. When completely cooled, place in airtight containers or freeze.

(Recipe adapted from Santa Fe School of Cooking, Celebrating the Foods of New Mexico, Gibbs Smith, 2015)
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Gh’raybeh
These rich and delicious Lebanese butter cookies will melt in your mouth. Be sure to let them rest on the cookie sheet for a few hours before removing, otherwise they may fall apart.

Gr’raybeh, Lebanese Butter Cookies
Gr’raybeh, Lebanese Butter Cookies

Yield: approximately 30 cookies

1 cup firm rendered butter aka ghee
1 cup bakers sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons flour
Blanched slivered almonds

With a wire whip of a standing mixer, whip butter until fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Mix the baking powder and bakers sugar together and gradually add to whipped butter until fluffy and airy. Replace wire whip with a beater attachment, and gradually add the flour until very smooth. Do not over mix.

With an ice cream scoop, scoop a small amount into your hands. Mold the dough into a ball about the size of a large walnut. Place on clean baking sheet. Place a blanched slivered almond on top center of cookie. If mixture becomes too warm, place in refrigerator for a few minutes. If cookie dough is too soft, it will result in a messy looking cookie. When finished with molding the dough, place cookies in refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Cookies must be firm.

While cookies are cooling in refrigerator, preheat oven to 210 F. Place baking sheet on rack in middle of the oven. Bake for 2 hours making sure the cookie remains white. Let cookies cool completely on cookie sheet before removing (at least 2 -3 hours) otherwise they will fall apart.

(Recipe from Corinne Cassis, Sitto’s Bakery)
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Finikia
After baking, these traditional Greek holiday cookies are soaked in honey and then rolled in a mixture of cinnamon, sugar and ground walnuts.

Greek Finikia and Kourabiethes
Greek Finikia and Kourabiethes

Yield: 4 dozen

1 pound butter at room temperature
2 cups corn oil
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons whiskey/ouzo
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
9-11 cups flour

Syrup
5 cups sugar
1 ½ cups honey
4 cups water
Topping
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat the oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine butter, oil and sugar and blend well. Add eggs, orange juice, and whiskey and beat on medium speed 3-4 minutes. Combine baking soda, baking powder, and 2 cups flour and add to mixture. Continue to add flour 1 cup at a time.

Form cookies into 2” football shapes. With a fork, pierce cookies several times. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool cookies and soak in syrup 15 minutes. While still wet, roll in topping mixture. Cover and stand 1 hour.

(Recipe from Jami Arvanitis)
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Kourabiethes
Light and buttery Greek shortbread cookies are coated in powdered sugar and made for Christmas and special occasions.

Yield: 4 dozen

1 ½ pounds butter, softened
1 pound confectioners sugar
5 ½ – 6 cups sifted flour

Heat oven to 350 F. Cream butter on low speed about 10 minutes and then on medium speed about 10 minutes. Sift ¼ cup confectioners sugar into mixture. Add flour until mixture thickens. Roll into 1 ounce balls and place on greased cookie sheets. Bake for 15-18 minutes. While still warm, sift with confectioners sugar.

(Recipe from Jami Arvanitis)
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Coconut Madeleines
The iconic shell-shaped French madeleines are more of a buttery sponge-like cake rather than a cookie and are a wonderful treat to dip in tea or hot cocoa.

French Coconut Madeleines
French Coconut Madeleines

Yield: 2 dozen

1 ½ tablespoons melted butter, to grease pans
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2⁄3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Confectioners sugar

Heat oven to 375 F. Grease and flour madeleine pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until light yellow and fluffy. Add butter and mix. Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt, and stir into batter. Stir in coconut.

With a soup spoon, drop the batter into pans, filling each shell almost full. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until they spring back when pressed. Tap the madeleines out onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper and allow to cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

(Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris, Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2004)