Who has time to decorate fancy cookies? Here are some easy (but delicious) recipes for your Christmas baking.
The tree has to be decorated. Lights have to be strung outside. Cards need to be addressed (or emailed). Invitations need to be sent out. Gifts have to be bought, wrapped and mailed. Menus have to be planned.
So. Much. To. Do.
And you still need to find time to relax and have fun outdoors, in Colorados gorgeous winter wonderland.
Aside from the messy tradition of decorating sugar cookies with your kids, who has a lot of time to spend on sweet treats?
In honor of National Cookie Day on Dec. 4, Denver Post staffers have put together some of our favorite recipes that are easy to toss together, so you can spend less time in the kitchen.
Thin, Crunchy, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
I have always been one of those people who thought, Why waste the calories on a dessert thats not chocolate? That was until this cookie came along. Its one of those tried-and-true recipes that now define the holidays in my family. Crunch on the outside, chewy in the middle, and bursting with nutty flavor, it may become a favorite in your home, too. Barbara Ellis
- 1 1/2 cups butter (not margarine)
- 2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups rolled oats (1-minute oatmeal)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 375. Beat butter until creamy. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, milk, baking powder, vanilla and baking soda. Beat until creamy (thats key!). Mix in flour 1 cup at a time. Add oats and mix by hand until dough is soft and workable. Add walnuts and raisins; mix well. Drop about a teaspoon full of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet (be sure to get a raisin or two in each teaspoon). Bake 7-8 minutes until slightly brown on the bottom. Do not overbake.
Chocolate Butterscotch Haystacks
It doesnt get much simpler or more flavorful than these cookies. Just open three bags, melt, mix, drop, refrigerate. TJ Hutchinson
- 1 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips
- 1 11 ounce bag of butterscotch chips
- 1 12 ounce bag of chow mein noodles
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.
Melt together the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips, either in a large microwave-safe bowl, or using a double boiler. I prefer to microwave, in one-minute increments, stirring as I go. It takes about 4 minutes for the chips to melt together perfectly smooth.
Immediately stir in the bag of chow mein noodles, coating evenly.
Quickly drop nests of the mixture onto wax-paper lined cookie sheet, adding layers of wax paper and cookies until done.
Refrigerate until set. (I prefer to store these in the refrigerator.)
Makes about 48 cookies and it takes about 20 minutes to get these into the refrigerator.
Variations I have seen for this recipe include adding chopped nuts or coconut to the mixture.
Simple Sugar Cookies
Its the texture that separates these from all other sugar cookies. Theyre not as dense as traditional sugar cookies, and not overly sweet. Former Post staffer Julia Martinez says she got the recipe long ago from a great aunt in New York. Ill never forget the first time I tasted them fresh from the oven, Julia says. They melted in my mouth. She used to make them giant-sized, 4 inches in diameter. No decorating necessary. Barbara Ellis
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup vegetable oil (not canola)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt (a little less if you use salted butter)
- 4 cups flour
- 2-4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, to taste, melted (for chocolate cookies)
Mix the butter, oil and both sugars. Add eggs and mix thoroughly. Add vanilla and blend. In a separate bowl, mix cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and flour. Slowly add into wet mixture and beat. Add chocolate if desired. Make small balls from dough, place on ungreased cookie sheet and flatten with floured bottom of glass. Top with sprinkles or other simple decorations if desired. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes. (Do not allow them to get brown on top.) Cool on rack.
Magic Cookie Bars
These are shockingly simple. Former Post staffer Suzanne Brown brings them to our Christmas cookie swap, and the magic begins when they all disappear. She said the original recipe is from Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. We made a slight adjustment here to make the graham cracker crumb base a bit thicker. Barbara Ellis
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 3/4 cups butter, melted
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
- 1 cup chopped nuts
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13-by-9 baking pan with cooking spray. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter in a small bowl. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Layer chocolate chips, coconut and nuts on top. Press down firmly with fork. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Loosen bars from sides of pan while still warm; cool on wire rack. (I put mine in the fridge until they firmed up enough to cut.) Cut into bars or diamonds.
Dried Cranberry and Chocolate Cookies
From Food & Wine, Sally Sampson, November 2011
Even if you do fancy cookies for the holidays, sometimes you just want something packed with flavor to have with a glass of milk or a cup of tea. Easy to make in about an hour but yummy enough to share with company. The dried cranberries and chocolate give a nice sweetness to the oatmeal base. Lori Punko
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups semisweet or white chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt.In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and sugars at medium speed until creamy.Add the egg followed by the egg yolk and vanilla, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.Beat in the dry ingredients, then add the chocolate chips and cranberries and beat until incorporated.
Spoon heaping teaspoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart.Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown at the edges.Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.
Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies
The beauty of Alison Romans salted chocolate chunk shortbread cookies recipe lies in its simplicity: just butter, sugar (brown and granulated, plus some demerara for rolling), vanilla, flour, chocolateand an egg. And, of course, perhaps the best part: flaky sea salt that makes every bite dance with flavor and warmth.
The recipe comes from Romans first cookbook, Dining In which, if Im to believe my own social media feeds, might just be the defining cookbook among those of us on the older edge of millennialism. Having graduated from college directly into a recession broke, underemployed and with little to no cooking skills weve long sought out recipes that feel equal parts utilitarian and indulgent, with a few basic kitchen skills learned along the way.
These cookies, even for an unskilled baker like myself, fit that bill perfectly and arent as cloyingly sweet as many holiday desserts. Just learn from my altitude-baking mistakes and be sure to add a tablespoon or so of extra flour to prevent your first batch from turning into a sad, spread-out cookie puddle. Beth Rankin
Yield: 24 cookies
Total time: 45 minutes, plus chilling
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/255 grams total (2 1/4 sticks) salted butter, cold (room temperature if youre using a handheld mixer), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup/101 grams granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup/55 grams light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups/326 grams all-purpose flour
- 6 ounces/170 grams semisweet or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped (not too fine; you want chunks, not little shards)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Demerara sugar, for rolling
- Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars and vanilla on medium-high till its super light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes for a stand mixer; 6 to 8 for a hand mixer). Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and mix just to blend. If necessary, knead the dough with your hands to make sure the flour is totally incorporated. At this point, the dough should be smooth and feel like Play-Doh with no pockets of flour.
Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic over so that it covers the dough to protect your hands from getting all sticky. Using your hands, form the dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help you smooth it out, but dont worry about getting it totally perfect. (Dont be afraid to make them compact. Shortbread is supposed to be dense. Thats part of why its so good.) You can also do this using parchment paper, if you prefer, but plastic wrap is easier when it comes to shaping the log. Each half should form a 6-inch log, 2 to 2 1/4 inches in diameter. Chill until totally firm, about 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the outside of the logs with the beaten egg and roll them in the demerara sugar (this is for those really delicious, crisp edges).
Using a serrated knife, carefully slice each log into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (if you hit a chocolate chunk, slowly saw back and forth through the chocolate). If the cookies break or fall apart, just press them back together the dough is very forgiving. Place them on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart (they wont spread much). Sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating them all.
OK, so these arent cookies, but this caramel corn is so fluffy and addictive we had to include the recipe. Put it in smallish, pretty Christmas bags and its perfect as a stocking stuffer. Former Post staffer Alison Borden says her mom got the recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook from the 70s. In her own homemade cookbook she shares with family, Alison wrote: This is a dangerous recipe, namely because of how much one can shove in his or her mouth at once. Barbara Ellis
- 15 cups popped corn (about 2/3 cup unpopped kernels or two microwave packages of Orville Redenbachers Natural Simply Salted)
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (a bit less if using the microwave popcorn)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a saucepan, heat sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt over medium heat, stirring occasionally until bubbly around the edges. Continue for 5 minutes, being careful not to overcook. Remove pan from heat and stir in baking soda until mixture becomes foamy. Pour on popped corn and stir until corn is coated. (Says Alison: The trick to evenly coat is to put the popcorn in a big bowl and stir like the dickens when you pour the caramel mixture in.) Place entire batch on cookie sheets. (I used a turkey roaster, since it was overflowing.) Bake for 1 hour, stirring about every 15 minutes. Cool.