Thursday, December 23, 2010

Countdown to the Holidays: Baking and More Baking!

One of our favorite things to do at the holidays is bake. It's fun to have cookies to take to a friend's house for a tree decorating party, or to bring to school for the classroom's holiday party.

So when we had the snow delay earlier this week, my daughter and I decorated the sugar cookies - note the cool Lobster and Mermaid shaped cookies on the plate - nothing says "Cape Cod Christmas" like a Lobster Sugar Cookie, glazed in red frosting with red sprinkles! Think Santa will approve?

We also tried out a new recipe for "Chewy Spice Cookies" - they're like a cross between a snickerdoodle and a molasses crinkle. Easy to make, tasty to eat, and boy how they made the whole house smell like Christmas while they were baking! I got the recipe from Real Simple's Cookie-A-Day holiday email newsletter, but we had to modify it slightly because their recipe was way too sticky.

Holiday Spice Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cloves
3/4 cup shortening (we used "I can't believe it's not butter")
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar (to roll cookies in before baking)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, ginger, baking soda, Cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, pepper and cloves.

2. In second bowl, beat shortening and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg, molasses & vanilla. Add the flour mixture until just combined - don't overmix.

3. Put white sugar in bowl or on a plate. Roll dough into walnut-sized balls with your hands and roll balls in the sugar to coat. Place balls on baking sheets, 2 inches apart.

4. Bake until edges are firm and tops are cracked (like in photo above) - 10-12 minutes. (It took us 12-13, but my oven always takes a few minutes longer.) Cool slightly on trays before transferring to wire rack. Store in airtight container.

Another "baking" item we enjoy during the holidays is the traditional gingerbread house - usually we have a competition between the 3 kids who partner with their aunts and grandmother.... but this year, my daughter was the only one interested so we just bought one kit and she put it together all by herself - I was allowed to supervise, but not touch.

Don't forget to leave a few cookies out for Santa and the elves - all that work on Christmas Eve makes them need the sugar rush!

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