Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas cookie books I love

This is the month for baking cookies.  Even if you rarely eat sweets, chances are that you make cookies some time in December.  I own a shocking number of baking books and a lot of them are specifically cookie cookbooks.  But I have a couple "go to" books for Christmas baking.

I have been a big fan of Rose Levy Beranbaum since The Cake Bible came out (that was my very first baking book) and so Rose's Christmas Cookies was my first cookie specific cookbook.  It has only 60 recipes so it is not an all-purpose cookie book.  But there are good reasons to like this book.  First, she gives measurements by weight (ounces and grams) in addition to volume -- measuring by weight will give you better results.  Second, there is a color picture for every recipe and detailed illustrations for some of the more technical creations (like the gingerbread Cathedral of Notre Dame).  And last but not least, it has some great classic Christmas cookie recipes that I love.  I haven't yet baked my way through all the recipes but have made quite a few.  I made the Mexican Wedding Cakes (aka Russian Tea Cakes) for my friend's cookie exchange a couple weeks ago.  And I use her Peanut Butter and Jelly Jewels recipe to make Peanut Butter Blossoms because her recipe is so much better than the usual one.  There is even a recipe for Bone a Fidos -- dog cookies that my Mom's dog loved.  This is a cookie book that belongs on every baker's shelf.

My church has a cookie sale every November to raise money for some ministry projects and it is my excuse to go a little crazy with baking cookies.  Most years I make between 50 and 150 dozen cookies for the sale.  At those numbers you can't get too fancy and I don't want the ingredients to cost more than they charge for a dozen cookies so I need some more basic recipes.  Icebox cookies -- where you make and chill cylinders of dough, then slice and bake -- are an efficient way to make a lot of cookies.  I can make the dough ahead of time then have a marathon baking session in the church's commercial kitchen.  So for my cookie sale baking, I rely on Taste of Home Cookies which has 620 recipes.  These are the kind of recipes your mother or neighbor would make and most have been submitted by readers of the Taste of Home magazine.  Unlike the lengthy and detailed recipes that Ms. Beranbaum writes, these are short and simple and measurements are given only by volume.  It gives me a lot of varieties of cookies to make for the sale and I usually work my way through the "slice & bake" section.  The recipe for Double Delights is a perpetual favorite.  You make a vanilla dough with chocolate chips and nuts and a chocolate dough with white chocolate chips and nuts then slice each cylinder in half lengthwise and put one half of each flavor together.  Yum!

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