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Monday, December 12, 2011

A Bite, a Ball, and a Bevy of Ladies and Gents - Holiday Cookies Explored

This weekend was the first weekend in months where I haven't been scheduled every moment of every day, so following a birthday celebration of one of my nearest and dearests Friday evening, I set to baking most of Saturday and Sunday.

I thought long and hard about pitching this gingerbread man recipe against that one, or his sugar cookie against hers and ultimately, I decided you might find it more useful to be presented with a variety of not necessarily similar cookies for your choosing.

There are 3 things THIS, THAT, and ANOTHER have in common this week.

1. They are all very easy (never fear a stovetop!) and quick to produce
2. They are under 100 calories a piece
3. They are beyond delicious in every way you'd want a holiday cookie to be

We'll start where I started, with THIS, Good Housekeeping's Shortbread Bites. These adorable little 1x1 inch cookies are perfectly festive, attracting the younger set, but one bite into them by the first adult will reveal an addictive, buttery concoction that you just can't quite quit.
My Army of Bites Pre-Bake
Recipe Ease: With a mere 4 ingredients, THIS makes Claire Robinson's pie look like a brain scratcher. THIS is a great one to include children in the baking process or to whip up when you have less than an hour to spare prior to your party.
This Texture = Time to Get Your Hands Dirty
Yumminess: These will sneak up on you, that's for sure. You'll remember your first bite and 15 bites in, wonder where they all went. We're not looking at an incredibly sophisticated flavor, but it's buttery and delectable and those crunchy nonpareils add just the bite to shake up the otherwise one-note texture. I don't know about you, but I've never been one to find any incredibly flaky pastry resistable.
How to Form Your Rectangle In a Mess-Free Fashion
Health Benefits: Okay, as you'll see, THIS is primarily butter. Butter and a few other ingredients that don't find themselves on the top ten healthiest of the healthy list. However, each one of these teensy bites will set you back a mere 40 calories, and in my world, that's Miracle of Hannukah-worthy.

$$$: Like all low ingredient recipes, THIS should require no additional purchases, unless you're me and insist on both Hannukah (blue and gold) and Christmas (red and green) themed versions.

Best in Show-worthy: THIS is not the type of cookie you want to bring to your uber sophisticated party, nor is it something with which you will demonstrate your extreme culinary prowess. THIS is perfect for childrens' parties, family gatherings or other casual get-togethers, but trust me, whether the median age is 5 or 50, they'll disappear in minutes.
Snowquakes in Texas
THAT is Country Living's Double Chocolate Snowquakes, and I must confess I made these in large part because I was entirely intrigued by the chutzpah a recipe-maker must have to call a simple Chocolate Snowball recipe a SnowQUAKE recipe. Well, I surrender happily to the elves at Country Living who have indeed created a Chocolate Snowball that will rock your socks off, Snowquake-style.

Recipe Ease: THAT does require more work time and snooze time than THIS. I am not typically one to go for recipes that necessitate "resting" time for the baked good. They can rest when they're dead as far as I'm concerned (which I would like to happen sooner rather than later). However, the steps are quite easy to follow and I used my one hour holding period as an opportunity to walk it out 'round Memorial Park.
This is what creamed butter looks like, yep, keep whipping

Yumminess: Chocolate Snowquake indeed. Be prepared upon first bite to have your world rocked, your core shook, [insert other appropriate metaphors for total droolworthy awesomeness here]. THAT is decadence taken to a new level.
I rolled out all the balls, put them in the fridge for a hot second, and then rolled in powdered sugar

Health Benefits: If the yumminess factor hasn't already sold you, this will - SEVENTY CALORIES! Yes, that's right, I just committed a writer's sin and both all caps-ed you and exclamation marked you all in the same sentence. I think it was worth it, don't you?
After the Blizzard of a Powdered Sugar Variety

$$$: THAT is most definitely pricier than THIS, however, as far as a chocolatey dessert goes, it requires nothing more than good old American Hershey chocolate chips and cocoa powder. Bang for your buck, guaranteed.
Maybe not for Santa, to avoid a powdered sugar beard and mess by the fireplace

Best in Show-worthy: THAT is definitely an attention grabber. People levitate towards its chocolate-y goodness and after the first person takes a bite, they'll live up to their earthquake will ensue by the mass number of people rushing the dessert plate.

 Given that it is the holiday season, I felt extra generous and thought I'd provide ANOTHER sweet treat for you and yours. I'm happy to introduce one of the very first recipes I invented all on my own. I like to call it My Gingerbread Army. This recipe came about after mass levels of frustration with the amount of spice and kick in other gingerbread man recipes. ANOTHER has nearly double the spice you'll find in most recipes and requires no "resting" time per my previous note of hatred.

They are deliciously spice packed and come in at only 75 calories a piece.

My Gingerbread Army

The Fixin's
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsulphered molasses
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 egg beaten
3.5 cups flour

To Do
In saucepan, heat the first six ingredients to boiling over medium heat and stir

This is what boiling spices look like

Remove from heat and stir in baking soda.  Don't be scared as it will foam up and lighten in color.

Stir in butter until melted. Then stir in the egg.

Add the flour until dough forms.
dough formed in saucepan

Then knead dough on floured wax paper until combined in a round shape.
dough formed via kneading

Roll out to 1/4 inch and cut with cookie cutters of your choosing
dough rolled to 1/4 inch

Bake approximately 12 minutes at 325 degrees and enjoy

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