It’s been a blur of flour, butter and chocolate around here lately, and, honestly, you’d think I’d be sick of it. But I’m not.
For the last month, I’ve been embracing holiday baking with arms wide open—and have the freezer full of cookies to prove it. There were the oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies, yes. Then the crumbly brown butter cookies; next, Earl Grey. Monday, on my cooking day, I made biscotti, four kinds of slice-and-bakes and, on a whim, triangle-shaped brown butter shortbread, after seeing it on Lottie & Doof. Right now, even as I type this, my sore throat aching and six blankets on top of me (thank you, winter), I’m dreaming of Molly’s peppermint bark and deciding I’ll have time to make it, too. Priorities, you know?
There’s something wonderful, food-wise, about this time of year. As the holidays approach, even non-cooks, the ones who say they aren’t very interested in the kitchen, have been known to pull out a cookie sheet and to frost some sugary Christmas trees or snowmen cut-outs. It’s just what you do in late December.
While I package up fudgey, sugary chocolate snowflakes in square, red tins—a gift for my coworkers—it’s with the knowledge that I am not alone. I know there are kitchens throughout Chicagoland, throughout the country, throughout the world, serving as backdrops for powdered-sugar and creamed-butter activities. And I’ll admit that’s part of why I like it.
There’s a unity, a sense of us all being in on this together. This time of year, we’re all part of a large community that watches the same White Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life on television, that checks off names on the same kinds of gift lists, that travels to see people we love, wherever they may be. I like to think that at Christmastime, especially, we reflect a little better the essence of something we all desire and for which we were made: love.
Brownie Roll-Out Cookies
from Smitten Kitchen
The first time I saw this recipe, I rejected it, thinking I didn’t have a flower cutter, and what would look as nice? Really, though, any large shape would work. I happened upon this snowflake shape accidentally, and I love how large it makes the cookies. These chocolate treats would work especially well, I think, as the containers of an ice cream sandwich, or even as the bottom of a hot fudge sundae. You try it and decide.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter: 1/2 cup salted, 1/2 cup unsalted
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
Roll out cookie dough on floured counter. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. (It does disappear once baked, though, so don’t overly fret if they go into the oven looking white.) Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies) until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.
Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool. (Be especially careful if you’re using a cutter that makes for delicate pieces, like snowflake arms.)