‘Tis the Season!

‘Tis the season (for cookies)!  Every baker I know looks forward to the winter holidays because it’s an excuse to bake with reckless abandon.  Every year I put together a little treat bag for my husband’s co-workers and a few friends, both as a holiday present and as an extra reason to make more cookies.  This year’s treat bag includes Peppermint Bark Chocolate Chip Cookies, Eggnog Spritz, Cinnamon-Sugar Roll Cookies, Fudge Brownies with Andes Mint topping and some of that addictive Gingerbread Popcorn that I discovered this year.  Happy Baking!

Fudge Brownies with Andes Mint Topping (adapted from Nitty Gritty publisher’s Cookies cookbook)

4 ounces Scharffen Berger unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted sweet cream butter
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
dash of salt
1 cup Andes Mint Bits or chopped Andes Mints  (optional)

Preheat your oven to 325° F.

In the top of a double boiler (or in the microwave on low power), melt the chocolate and butter together over hot (not boiling) water.  Remove top of double boiler and set melted ingredients aside to cool while you continue.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until light with a hand mixer.  Beat in sugar and vanilla.  Mix in the cooled chocolate mixture.  Gently stir in the the flour and salt.

Pour the batter into a greased 11×7 pan (or line pan with foil and grease that for easy removal).  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the brownies are just barely set.  Do not over-bake!

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.  Immediately sprinkle the top with half of the Andes Mint Bits, the heat from the brownies will soften them.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then gently spread the melted bits over the brownies with a spatula.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining mint bits.

Allow to cool enough for the chocolate to set, then cut into squares.

Note: It’s important to use room temperature eggs in this recipe as there’s no other leavening. If you forgot to get the eggs out ahead of time, set them in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for 5 minutes before using them.

Eggnog Spritz Cookies (adapted from Better Crocker’s Cooky Book)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. eggnog flavoring
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Blend the butter and cream cheese together until smooth.  Add the sugar and cream thoroughly.  Add the egg and the eggnog flavoring and blend well.  Combine flour and baking powder and then blend it into the creamed mixture.  Chill the dough for an hour or until firm enough to pass through your cookie press without being too sticky.

Heat the oven to 375°F.  Force the cookie dough through a cookie press onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned.

Note:  If you do not have eggnog flavoring, try flavoring the dough with some ground nutmeg and either vanilla or rum extract.

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