I love baking Christmas cookies, but the production of it all can get overwhelming. It’s usually when I’m in the throes of baking three or four different kinds of cookies — because it’s never enough to bake just one kind — with equipment and ingredients covering every available surface that I remember just how all-encompassing spreading holiday cheer can be.
One way to ease the frazzle without losing the dazzle is to use one dough as a base and accessorize it with different flavorings and ingredients to transform it into an array of cookies.
For this piece, I worked with a basic spritz cookie dough recipe. The dough for spritz is intentionally soft so that it can be pushed through a cookie press. The flip side is that because it’s a wet and soft dough, you won’t be able to roll it out for cutouts. That’s not such a bad thing if you’re hoping to save time. I like spritz for how quickly the dough comes together, its versatility, and that it’s not too sweet.
I doubled the recipe and divided the dough into three portions. With the first portion of dough, I used a cookie press to make wreaths. I used a holiday mix of sugar crystals to decorate the wreaths. You can choose any type of sprinkles or candied fruit to use as decorations.
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For the second portion of dough, I mixed ½ teaspoon each of ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves and ground nutmeg together. I gently worked the spices and ⅛ cup of dark molasses into the dough. I rolled heaping tablespoonfuls of this dough into balls and dipped them in white decorative sugar crystals, then baked for about 9 minutes at 350 degrees. While these cookies aren’t exactly gingerbread, they still offer the flavor of warm spices that immediately connote Christmas and cold weather.
For the last portion of dough, I added ¼ cup cocoa powder and ¾ cup roughly chopped dried cranberries. (If I’d had some pistachios in my pantry, I would’ve added ¼ cup chopped unsalted pistachios, too.) I rolled heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and made thumbprint cookies. You can adorn the thumbprint with your choice of accoutrement: nuts, chocolate chips or dried cranberries. I baked these cookies for about 9-11 minutes. It’s OK if you underbake these just slightly, because it creates a brownielike consistency.
I didn’t have pistachio nuts, but I did have a jar of pistachio cream, which I added after the chocolate-cranberry thumbprints cooled. You can get pistachio cream online at sabatinostore.com or locally at marxfoods.com.
There’s still something to be said for making traditional recipes for all your favorite holiday cookies, but sometimes we need to punt, in which case, one dough can be just the right amount.
Hsiao-Ching Chou is the former food editor at the Seattle P-I and a freelance food writer.