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(Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail/Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail)
(Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail/Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail)

How to rule at your holiday cookie exchange Add to ...

Originally published on November 30, 2010.

Most of us bake for the holiday season. Setting out plates of your own cookies adds a sense of warmth to the house, but it can be a lot of work.

My solution to the time crunch is to make one dough for four different kinds of cookies. The easiest dough is a sugar cookie dough, which can be combined with other ingredients. We've come up with four different recipes that are rolled, filled and cut out to make an attractive package for your cookie exchange.

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Sugar Cookie Dough

Using a combination of light brown and white sugar produces cookies with a lovely golden colour and an appetizing hint of caramel.

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Method

Combine butter, sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl and beat using a mixer until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Add vanilla and beat until well combined.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat until dough just comes together. Divide dough into 4 pieces to make 4 varieties of cookies.

Lemon Sandwich Cookies

This is an easy cookie - you cut out the centre of the top cookie, if desired. Lemon is always a favourite because its tart taste contrasts with other sweeter offerings. You can buy lemon curd (I usually thin it down with a little whipped cream) or you can make your own.

Ingredients

¼ recipe sugar cookie dough

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

1/3 cup lemon curd

Method

Gently work lemon rind into cookie dough until just combined.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/8 inch.

Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out. Gather dough scraps together and re-roll as needed until dough is used up. Place rounds of dough 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and chill for 20 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Bake cookies, one baking sheet at a time, for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden at edges. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool fully. On the day you plan to serve them, spread half the cookies with about 1 teaspoon lemon curd each and top with other cookies to make a sandwich. Makes about 16 sandwich cookies.

Toasted Hazelnut And Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Substitute other nuts, if desired, or even other chocolate, such as milk or white.

Ingredients

¼ recipe sugar cookie dough

¼ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Method

Gently work chocolate and hazelnuts into cookie dough until just combined.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to between ½- and ¼-inch thick. Use a knife and a ruler to cut dough into pieces about 1½-inch square. Place cookies about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill for 20 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Bake cookies, one baking sheet at a time, for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden at edges.

Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool fully. Makes about 24 cookies.

Dulce de Leche Thumbprint Cookies

Dulce de leche is now available at most grocery stores and it makes a sweetly soft cookie. Add it partway through baking, so it doesn't dry out.

Ingredients

¼ recipe sugar cookie dough

2 tablespoons dulce de leche

Method

Roll dough into 1-inch balls (about 1 level tablespoon of dough) and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Press your index finger into the middle of each ball to make a deep round imprint. Chill cookies for 20 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Working in batches, bake cookies for 8 minutes, then remove from oven and fill wells with ¼ teaspoon dulce de leche. Return cookies to oven and bake another 4 minutes or until golden at edges and cookies are baked through.

Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool fully. Makes about 16 cookies.

Fig Turnovers

You can use store-bought fig preserves or use our recipe to make your own. Leftover fig preserves are scrumptious on toast or spread over a wheel of brie before baking.

Ingredients

¼ recipe sugar cookie dough

¼ cup fig preserves (recipe below)

1 egg yolk, beaten

1/4 cup icing sugar

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Method

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.

Use a 3 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out. Gather dough scraps together and re-roll as needed until used up.

Spoon 1 teaspoon of fig preserves into the centre of each circle of dough. Lightly flatten jam, then brush the edge of half the round of dough with beaten egg and fold in half to enclose filling. Pinch edges gently to seal.

Place fig turnovers 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and chill for 20 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Bake cookies, one baking sheet at a time, for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden at edges. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool fully.

Combine icing sugar with cardamom. Dust cooled cookies with icing sugar mixture to coat. Makes about 14 turnovers.

Fig Preserves

Make sure to buy figs that have some life to them. They should be slightly springy and moist. The preserves keep for a month.

Ingredients

1 227-gram package dried figs (about 1½ cups chopped)

¼ cup port

½ teaspoon grated orange rind

¼ cup orange juice

3 tablespoons brown sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

Method

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until figs soften and mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes.

Transfer to a blender, or use a hand blender, to puree until smooth. Makes about 1 cup.

Follow on Twitter: @lucywaverman

 

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