Sunday, December 06, 2009

St. Nicholas cookies

How perfect that I needed to bring cookies to the Messiah sing-along today. It's the feast of St. Nicholas and I've been wanting to honor him again by rendering his likeness in sugar. I cherish a secret desire to be honored in that way myself someday. So anyway...

I measured out a bunch of spices for a spice cookie dough. One of them is pepper, believe it or not, and in this recipe it works.

I made the dough, chilled it, and slapped it on some wax paper.

The trick is to roll it out between two sheets of wax paper and then freeze it for a while before cutting out the circles. That way you don't need to keep adding flour and it's much easier to cut and remove the shapes.

I gathered and re-rolled the scraps...

...until there was just enough left for one more cookie.

And the scraps from that one, I was simply forced to eat.

Meanwhile my mom looked cozy with our cat Gimlet on her lap. I'm just throwing that in there 'cause it's cute.

All right, so I baked the cookies and then melted some butter in a saucepan and added powdered sugar, vanilla, and half-and-half for a nice buttercream frosting.

Some of it I set aside to tint with red icing color. How pretty. :)

I cut up some red candied cherries...

Got some flaked coconut...

Some raisins...

And some mini marshmallows cut crosswise in half.

Here's a plate of baked cookies...

And here are my two colors of frosting.

Observe the entire setup.

Now then! White buttercream for the face goes on 2/3 of the cookie.

Add some raisin eyes.

A cherry nose.

A coconut beard.

A red hat!

And a marshmallow as the pompom on the end of his hat.

I think it's better to let the white frosting dry a bit before adding the red, so I turned out a few dozen bald Santas.

And then capped them.

And there you go! Munch munch!

I won't lie: this recipe is darn labor-intensive. Do not attempt it unless you're really high on Christmas and in a serious baking mood. Or, do this: buy a log of sugar cookie dough from your grocery's refrigerated section, one of those you can just slice and bake. You could also buy frosting made especially for cookies in red and white. Then you can save your energy for the decorating, though even that takes a while. Santa cookies are a lot of fun to make, though... about once every two years. :)

Update: All right, here are the recipes. For frosting I used this basic buttercream:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter.
3 tablespoons milk or cream
3 cups powdered sugar
1.5 teaspoons vanilla
Add more cream (slowly! A little goes a long way), until it's a good spreading consistency. Set aside about one third of the frosting and add red food coloring or paste. (Paste is better if you really want to make it red instead of pink.) If the frosting gets harder as you work, you can add yet more cream or warm up the frosting a little in the microwave.

The spice cookie recipe, which originally called for them to be dipped in white chocolate, is here. You'll probably want a bigger cookie cutter than 1.5 inches, if you plan to make the Santa faces. I'll copy the recipe to this post in case that link disappears:

White Chocolate Spice Cookies

Prep and Cook Time: about 1 1/4 hours, plus about 1 hour to chill. Notes: These spiced rounds with a pretty white chocolate glaze can be stored airtight for up to 2 days.

Yield: Makes about 85 cookies

* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch slices
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
* 6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
* 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening


1. In a food processor or bowl, whirl or stir flour, sugar, ginger, pepper, baking soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt to blend. Add butter; pulse or cut in with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. In a small bowl, mix vanilla, lemon peel, and 1 tablespoon water. Add to food processor or bowl; whirl or stir until dough forms a ball.

3. Divide dough in half. Roll out each portion between sheets of waxed paper or cooking parchment to about 1/4 inch thick. Stack and chill rolled dough until firm, about 45 minutes (or freeze about 25 minutes).

4. Cut out cookies with a floured 1 1/2-inch round cutter. Place 1/2 inch apart on buttered or cooking parchment-lined 12- by 15-inch baking sheets.

5. Bake cookies in a 325° oven until pale brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely.

6. Place white chocolate and shortening in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bottom of bowl should not touch water). Remove from heat and stir occasionally until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

7. Dip each cookie halfway into white chocolate mixture, then place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Drizzle undipped half of cookie with more white chocolate mixture, if desired. Chill just until glaze is set, about 15 minutes.

Nutritional analysis is per cookie.
Nutritional Information

53 (58% from fat)
3.4g (sat 1.9)

Sunset, NOVEMBER 2003


Erin said...

But you didn't give the recipe! My next foray into gluten-free baking will be learning how to modify regular recipes to be gluten-free, and I want to use your recipe with the pepper in it. My fiance's response to "this cookie recipe has pepper in it" was "oh, that's interesting--I'd eat that." So it must be made.

Though, I will admit ahead of time, there's no chance mine will have faces. Not enough counter space to lay them all out to set here. Alas. One day, I will have a kitchen with more than a few feet of counter space.

Rachel Gray said...

True, you must make these cookies for your fiance now! :) The original cookie recipe didn't call for them to be made into Santa faces anyway. I'll put the recipe in the post.