Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Cookies with the Children - updated with recipe

I really like to have Christmas cookies around; other desserts take second place in December at our house.

We got around to baking Christmas cookies over the weekend.  My goal was to involve the children as much as possible, make specifically Christmas-y cookies, and have a nicely balanced cookie plate when we have guests.

We made Almond-Toffee Bark using saltines that Ben laid out for me.  Jennifer Jo wrote a post comparing this stuff to crack, and she's right (I used my aunt's recipe which is similar).  The ironic thing about my batch is that I used the only crackers I had on hand:  whole wheat saltines.  So this is healthy crack, ok?

I mixed up the gingerbread dough and handed it over to the children.  They did all the rolling, cutting, and placing on cookie sheets.  I was nearby making Russian tea cakes, but I didn't intervene much. 

After supper, we made a cookie-decorating station at the table and all four of us sat around icing and decorating cookies. It was fun!  I made a cream cheese icing because I wanted a little more flavor than the average powdered sugar icing, but it was too goopy, really.  Do you have a good recipe for white frosting that is firm enough for cookie decorating and handles freezing?

I'm still considering making pinwheels, especially this recipe.  But I'm only doing it if it's fun and adds to the merry-making!

updated with recipe:

Russian Tea Cakes - from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes by Esther Shank

Place about 1 cup powdered sugar on a plate and set aside.

Beat together:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp. almond flavoring
1tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

Separately, stir together:
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Stir walnut/flour mixture into butter mixture. Dough will look crumbly, but then you should be able to squeeze it together into 1" balls.  Roll balls in powdered sugar, and place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 360 for 9-10 minutes - do not overbake!  Roll again in powdered sugar if you wish.  Allow to cool.  Freezes well.


sk said...

Just a very very buttery icing, I think. Enough butter and it cuts the oversweetness.

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

OH what fun.. The kids faces show , how much they are enjoying.. nothing says CHristmas , like baking cookies and then decorating together.. Special memories.

Unknown said...

I used t do that wit my kids. We'd make tons of sugar cookies and gingerbread men and decorate all of them. Stuff everywhere but we had a blast! Then we'd give a bunch away, fun times :)

Hazel said...

I'm intrigued by the Russian tea cakes.
I looked them up and wikipedia says they are a type of jumble. That didn't help much because my one and only memory of a jumble is a reference in What Katy Did at School (loved that book) and that had a hole in the middle. As a child I could only equate that with some kind of doughnut.
The recipe I found looks interesting- I think walnuts may have to go on the shopping list!

I was thinking it's funny that the UK has no history of cookie/biscuit making at Christmas (far too busy making cakes and pies full of dried fruit) when either side of us the US and continental Europe are busy making every flavour you can think of, but I guess the European immigrants took their cookie making traditions directly to the US and missed us out.
I think it's time to expand our repertoire!

Margo said...

Hazel, I think it's so fascinating what holiday traditions other people have! I meant to make St. Lucia buns this year - missed it.

Anyway, I always knew Russian tea cakes as Christmas cookies, but some of the recipes online indicated they are Scandinavian in origin. I scanned several recipes online and they look similar to the one in my Mennonite cookbook, but I'm happy to post the recipe I used - just say the word. This is the first time I ever made them and they are delicious.

Beth said...

Yahoo for low stress, well planned fun cookie making!!

Look at you in the red jeans and great work on the top!!

Hazel said...

Margo, I forgot St Lucia buns too. I have no reason to be making them really, but I made them as a thank you a couple of years ago for a Swedish chap who did a big favour for my son's class. It happened to be St Lucia's day, so that's what I made. I kept some for us and they were so nice I've made them again.

The other Christmas baking I've decided to adopt is Beigli, a Hungarian bread filled with either Walnut or poppy seeds. I made it for a Hungarian friend and decided to keep making that too! It's quite plain but I found I kept wanting another slice! It was also very handy for breakfast...

I'd love your Russian teacake recipe please! I haven't forgotten the fruitcake recipe- will look it out.