Lorna’s Peppermint Stars

You will never walk into my house to find me without cookies. If they’re not sitting there in plain sight, they’ll be found in the door of the freezer frozen and ready for the exact moment when the ice cold glass of milk is poured. This is, after all, Colorado, where cookies turn into hockey pucks 30 minutes after they’ve hit the cooling rack. I’m not particularly a cookie monster, but those of you who know him well recognize I’m married to one. And one truth I’ll share is this: I love to bake cookies. There’s a sweet comfort to the rhythm and rhyme of beating up butter and sugar, a zen atmosphere when time is suspended as they bake (I can’t answer the phone/let the cat in/check your homework; I’m baking cookies), and the perfect control I exhibit when they’re cooling (I’ll will slap your hand with this wooden spoon if you grab one while they’re still that hot. They must set, for God’s sake.)

Listen to HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS/The McCallans while you read or bake.

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“Peaknut” Crinkles

Each December for the last several years, I’ve dreamed up a Christmas cookie for the blog. This time, I might have found my very favorite–just in time for your weekend last-minute baking.  “Peaknut” Crinkles are a twist on the always-favorite Chocolate Crinkles so often made at holiday time.

My own crinkle recipe– pictured above–and this is a riff on that– is one I’ve made for years and I have no idea from whence it came.  More than once, I’ve really searched to discover its provenance, but the crinkle recipes I find are not like mine and so I have no idea. Thanks to that cookie baker I’ve never found!! Now, just so you know:  the difference between “my” recipe and the others is this:  mine uses melted chocolate and ALSO chocolate chips; every other one I locate is made with only cocoa.  So.   “My” Chocolate Crinkle Recipe.

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Almond and Chocolate Shortbread Cookies (Gluten Free + Vegan)

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When you’re looking for food to fit specific diets or food preferences and you’re not used to cooking or baking those profiles, it’s best or easiest, anyway, to pick dishes that are naturally gluten free, for instance, or come perfectly vegan all by themselves, for another. Extra-Bittersweet Chocolate Pots de Crème is a simple, happy dessert for a gluten free eater.  No flour to replace there.  Sumptuous summer strawberries and raspberries glistening with finely minced mint fills the bill for vegans, I’m thinking, because who doesn’t like strawberries and raspberries?

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Chocolate-Peppermint Shortbread Cookies

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For anyone with Scots background, shortbread is the Christmas cookie. In whatever “shape or form”, to quote my Dad, it might come.  It also happens to be my  very favorite cookie of any season and you can find it on the blog in a few incarnations... The endless variations are a large part of its intrinsic attraction for this baker:

Raspberry Shortbread Sandwich Cookies and Valrhona Chocolate Shortbreads with Sea Salt:

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Two-Cheese Walnut and Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

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Whenever I run into savory little cheese cookies someone’s served with a glass of wine, I’m happy indeed.  These days, they’re usually they’re made with Parmigiano-Reggiano, but older food memories include homemade crispy little cheddar crackers that were just as good with beer as with wine.  Back in the day, these were called “Cheese Pennies” and while they were usually simply round, occasionally a creative baker would even roll them out and cut them out into shapes (suits, of course) for bridge club.

Things that grow together go together

is the saying–Cheddar and Beer being two things the British do very well and Parmigiano-Reggiano and Wine being two things the Italians do just superbly. So, whichever way you roll –to coin a phrase –these savory bits are luscious.

Checking through my top choice cookbooks for such recipes (and tooling around the internet, of course) showed me there’re just as many varieties of not-sweet cookies as there are baking (or other) books on my cookbook shelves.

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Make-Ahead Christmas Eve Dinner with Activities for All

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I’ve worked on Christmas Eve for many years, so our Christmas Eve dinner was always something like a soup I left in the crock-pot while I directed the choir at church.  Or it might have been a made-ahead casserole like cassoulet that finished up in the oven while “Silent Night” was sung. One year I made a fish stew base early in the morning, heated it around 9pm, and threw in the seafood and fish for a few minutes until it had just cooked through.  On a rare occasion we’d go out for dinner before the first service or in between services if I had to direct an 11 o’clock.  (at left:  PPUMC Choir, Minneapolis)

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Stained Glass Shortbread Hearts

I used INDIA TREE Sparkling Sugar–Confetti “color.”

I have a group of favorite Christmas cookies and I make most of them every year.  Not all.  Some years there’s just no time for the cranberry bars and the candy canes do only make it into the round up every so often.  I’m not sure what gives one cookie a spot at the top of the favorites’ team or what makes another a relief pitcher, but I’m thinking it’s which little crispy piece of sweetness draws the most desirable oooos and ahhs from family and friends versus those that are still in the freezer at Easter. Continue reading