Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Cookies

A few weeks ago, I made about 12 dozen cookies to give away to family and friends for the holidays. I made sugar (a bust), peanut butter blossoms, magic cookie bars, chocolate chip cookies and biscochitos. I sent packages of a variety of these goodies to friends and that was the most fun. My friends were pleasantly surprised to receive a box of cookies out of no where which makes me all kinds of giddy!

Peanut butter blossoms are a tradition every Christmas and I used this same awesome recipe for the chocolate chip cookies. This is the first year I made the biscochitos, though, which are a Mexican (or Spanish, if you want to go that far back) cookie that we always get at the Mexican bakeries in Houston. I had a few recipes but the first I tried called for lard. Now, I've never SEEN lard, I've never SMELLED lard and I've certainly never COOKED with lard before. It was definitely different. I actually kind of thought it smelled like turkey. Weird, I know. But I made the cookies which vaguely smelled (like turkey, to me) and I just couldn't give them away. I made another batch with Crisco and they were SO MUCH better. My mom said, after comparing the two, that the lard cookie tasted richer. I agree but mostly because the Crisco cookie might've been lighter because it didn't have that heavy turkey taste. (I kid! But seriously; that mess is OFF.)

So I sent out the Crisco biscochitos to my friends in the shapes of Christmasy stars! Because my first attempt at sugar cookies was a bust, I had a second go at them. (See further down.)

It's funny but I made all those cookies and because I planned to give so many away, I really only ate one or two from each batch. I had to save the rest for others! So I made another pan of Magic Cookie Bars that stayed home for family. They're kind of my favorite bar-thing on the planet so. I gots to have some for meeeee.


1 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 to 4 Tablespoons red wine, brandy or sherry
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed/ground anise seed
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional

Cinnamon Sugar:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat lard with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the sugar, then the egg. Beat in 2 Tablespoons of the wine and the anise seed. Toss the flour together with the baking powder and salt, if using. Gently stir in, adding more wine as needed to form a soft dough. Let stand for 10 minutes or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes as desired. Dip the top side of each cookie in the cinnamon-sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending upon size, just until the edges turn a pale blond. Let cool a few minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in a cookie jar or airtight container.

THEN I committed myself to making sugar cookies and it came down to Christmas Eve but I did them. Next year I'll prepare better and do them right but these came out cute. :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mini Pies!

As I mentioned in the last post, I made a chocolate pecan pie for work and didn't get to taste it. Then my mother made the same pie for Thanksgiving and I had a small piece (because there were three pies to sample!). So the week after Thanksgiving, I realized I didn't get my pecan pie fix like I shoulda. I didn't want to make a whole pie for myself. C'mon give me some credit; I do have some control. However I needed it so the solution was clearly MINI pie.

I used the same Pecan Pie recipe from the last post (without the chocolate) and simply split the filling recipe in half. I used the equivalent to one pie crust and it made five mini tart/pies. The only adjustment I had to make was to the baking time: I lowered the temperature to around 320 degrees and it ended up baking 40 minutes or so. The toothpick test will let you know when they're done!

They're perfect for one serving of your very own little pie! :)