My Christmas traditions for some time now have included single-handedly decorating a double batch of sugar cookie cut-outs, and individually dipping an entire bag's worth of mini pretzels in chocolate. I decided to abandon both this year, in favor of baking several new cookie varieties. I was inspired by the America's Test Kitchen Best Holiday Cookies 2010 issue, which included staples like Snickerdoodles and Russian Tea Cakes and recipes I've never seen before, like Texas Pink Grapefruit Bars and Peanut Butter Mousse Cups.
Like a crazy woman, I chose four recipes to try in one day, and accomplished them all. Here's the chronicle.
Cookie #1: Turtle Thumbprints
These turned out beautifully. The dough stayed soft and fudgy, and the pecan, cocoa, and caramel flavors balanced well. I did use the cream from the top of a jug of raw milk to mix with the caramel, and it produced a more liquid caramel than regular heavy cream would have. It tastes wonderful, but they are messy.
Cookie #2: Macadamia Eggnog Creams
The unique ingredients in this recipe made it fun to prepare. Eggnog goes into both the dough and the rum-spiked glaze, and the creamy, nutmeggy flavor definitely shines through. The salty macadamia nuts add a nice contrast. The flavor is subtle and perhaps somewhat lackluster, but sugar cookie fans who also like eggnog should love them, and they were super easy to bake.
Cookie #3: Molasses-Spice Lemon Cookies
These turned out to be my FAVORITE cookie of the day. The dough is packed with spicy ingredients--Brer Rabbit molasses, ground cloves, cinnamon, and ginger--and the flavor, especially just out of the oven, was incredible. I took them out when they still looked underdone, which resulted in a cookie that has stayed very moist. I almost wanted to leave them alone, but the lure of the lemon cream was too much. A simple combination of powdered sugar, fresh lemon juice, and butter fills the cookies, adding a creamy tang to offset the spices. I can't get over the flavor. Delicious.
Cookie #4: Oatmeal Fudge Bars
I had made a version of these before, probably from a recipe on AllRecipes.com, and I think I liked that one better. I recall it using sweetened condensed milk, which resulted in a richer, fudgier filling than the denser, drier one in this recipe. The version I made this time also called for instant coffee, which I thought was a good idea, but when I tasted the finished product, I thought the flavor seemed a bit harsh. I think I also overbaked these slightly, since the oatmeal crust and topping ended up a bit too crunchy. They've gotten good reviews from their tasters, however.