Like a lot of people, I have fond memories of baking Christmas cookies with my mom growing up. Actually, I have only one fond memory; mom wasn’t a baker but one year she went all out, and we baked about a million cookies. The one that always sticks out in my mind was a recipe we found in her ancient Betty Crocker cookbook (which I believe she still has) called “Candy Canes.” We twisted long ropes of peppermint flavored white and red shortbread into candy cane shapes. I thought those were the coolest. Like my mother, I don’t do a lot of Christmas baking. I want to every year, but it’s finding the time that is my downfall! Well, this year was different; I made a plan of attack that began at the grocery store and ended with an entire Saturday surrounded by flour, sugar and a whole lot of butter. My trio of recipes included classic Butter Shortbread, Cherry & Pistachio Mexican Wedding Cookies and Chocolate Pistachio Sables. My husband literally won’t share the shortbread, and it’s tough to blame him, they are pretty good. The Mexican Wedding Cookies are like biting into soft, crumbly, buttery and not-too-sweet goodness, occasionally scoring a roasted pistachio or tart cherry. All of this is dusted with powdered sugar. But the best of the bunch? Those sables.
I found this gem of a recipe in a Bon Appetit Magazine from three years ago. The recipe is uncomplicated, yet sophisticated. Deep, dark chocolate is the base flavor with generous studs of bright green pistachio (my favorite nut, hands down). Each cookie is then sprinkled with flaked sea salt, so you get these bright, crunchy crystals that totally accentuate the other flavors. Salt on cookies? By George, yes. First, you whisk your dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, etc). Then, separately, you beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla. When that’s all fluffy, you add the dry ingredients in gradually. Mix in an egg white then your chopped bittersweet chocolate chunks and pistachios. Divide your dough into 4 8-inch logs and chill for at least a couple of hours. When you’re ready to bake, slice the logs into ¼ inch slices and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each round of dough with flaked sea salt (use the good stuff, like Maldon. It makes a difference). Bake, cool, devour. They look fancy, they taste divine. I would completely encourage the pairing of a sweeter, red wine when enjoying these fancy cookies. Since the cookies are not overly sweet, I don’t think you need a super-sweet wine, but remember, any time you’re pairing wine with sugar, the wine should be sweeter than what you’re serving with it. 2014 Late Harvest and/or Port would be wonderful choices.
If you didn’t bake cookies this Christmas, I sure hope someone gave some cookies to you. And if you’re still hankering for something sweet, give this recipe a try. I predict it will become a keeper!
–What is your favorite cookie recipe?