Monday, December 29, 2008

Our Christmas Baking

We love to bake cookies and other Christmas treats together each year. This year, we continued to simplify this process by whittling down the amount of varieties that we made. I can easily get carried away when baking. Everything is so yummy!

We decided on five different kinds and in the end, I narrowed it down to four, eliminating the time-consuming sugar cut-outs. I think I'll make some of those at Valentine's Day instead!

The treats we made:
1)Chocolate Peanut Squares
2)Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods(directions below)
3) Chocolate-Mint Cookies(recipe below)
4)Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies(recipe below)

The dough for the cookies was made ahead and chilled. We started the cookies baking then did the other two no-bake varieties. We kept the cookies baking the entire time-14 dozen in all! I also made 3 batches of the chocolate-peanut squares and then one bag of large pretzel rods and a half bag of smaller rods that I found this year.

We use a lot of these cookies for sharing. Some of our friends and family request specific kinds at Christmas.

The simplified list was much more manageable and we were able to get everything completed in a timely manner! Not having to frost or decorate anything sped up the process considerably.

We both decided that if we were to choose one kind the make next year, we would make the Chocolate-dipped pretzel rods. They are so pretty and everyone loves them. Plus they're so easy even a non-cook, like my husband, can easily do the whole process by himself. He does most of the work on these every year and does a wonderful job!

Once I made up a platter of our treats, I noticed the brown and tan theme! haha

From left to right, we have chocolate mint cookies, chocolate-dipped mini pretzel rods with toffee bits, chocolate-peanut butter squares and oatmeal raisin cookies. The middle row is a combination.

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods

--Bag of pretzel rods
--almond bark(white or chocolate) or chocolate chips
--toffee bits, sprinkles or nuts

Melt chocolate. I do this by pouring the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heating at 30 second intervals until melted, stirring after each time.

Dip pretzel rod in chocolate. Let drip off the best you can. Sprinkle with sprinkles, toffee bits or nuts and let dry. We try to rig up something to hold the rods up straight so that one side isn't flat, but you can lay them flat on waxed paper, too. A cooling rack with the metal grid works well for some of the rods, depending on the size of the holes.

After dry, you can melt a bit of the opposite color of chocolate to drizzle on the finished rods, if desired. We put white drizzles on the large rods we did(not pictured), but left the smaller one plain with just chocolate and toffee bits. Both were very pretty!

Chocolate-Mint Cookies

This is my own variation on a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. Because I cook and bake, people bring me baking ingredients that they haven't used. Apparently, they don't have extra money laying around, just flour! A friend brought me several grocery bags of baking supplies last spring, with one bag full of fancy varieties of chocolate chips.

When it came to using the mint chocolate chips(Nestle Toll House Swirls), I was at first just going to add them to a plain chocolate chip cookie. While mixing the dough, I decided to add cocoa and mint extract.

Move over, Girl Scout Thin Mints! These are just as good or better.

The only bad thing about making up this recipe is that I now have requests for the cookies and haven't been able to locate more of the Nestle mint and chocolate chips around here. I've been using Ande's baking chips which taste about the same but aren't as bright green, which I thought was so pretty in such a dark cookie.

--1 cup butter, shortening or margarine
--1 cup brown sugar
--1/2 cup white sugar
--2 eggs
--1/2 to 1 teaspoon peppermint extract- a little goes a long way, adjust as needed. You can also use 1 teaspoon vanilla in place of the mint.
--3/4 cup cocoa
--2 1/2 cups flour
--1 teaspoon baking soda
--1 teaspoon salt
--1 1/2 to 2 cups mint chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs and extract. Mix well. Stir in cocoa, flour, soda and salt. Lastly, add chocolate chips.

Roll into balls and flatten slightly. Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

**Add a bit more cocoa if it doesn't seem quite dark enough. This amount has been good for me. A friend made it and hers turned out a lot lighter with the same amount of cocoa. Not sure if different brands would cause that?

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Dishpan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This is an old fashioned recipe that my family has made for years. 'Dishpan' is in the title because this makes such a large batch of cookies that a dishpan would need to be used to mix the dough!

--2 cups shortening or butter
--2 cups white sugar
--2 cups brown sugar
--4 eggs, beaten
--1 teaspoon vanilla
--3 1/2 cups flour
--2 teaspoons baking soda
--2 teaspoons baking powder
--2 teaspoons salt
--5 cups rolled oats(I like quick oats the best.)
--1 cup raisins
--2 cups coconut, optional
--1 cup chopped nuts, optional
--1 cup chocolate chips, optional

Cream together shortening and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Sift together flour, salt, soda, and baking powder and add to above mixture. Add oats, raisins and any of the optional ingredients. Mix well. Chill dough for at least one hour, then drop by teaspoon full on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes.

Makes about 8 dozen cookies.

**Recipe can be successfully halved.



DarcyLee said...

Oatmeal Raisin is my favorite and the Chocolate Mint Cookies sound very good! Roll-out cookies are very time-consuming but my daughter, Katie, insists on them every year. I told her that as long as she helps we'll continue to make them.

Thanks for sharing your recipes.

Debbie J. said...

Wow, you were so productive and smart! I made butterscotch chip cookies which were really good. I just used butterscotch chips instead of chocolate chips. Yum! You also put a lot of work into this post. Thanks!