To bake or not to bake. Should you haul out the mixer, stock up on candied sprinkles, carve out several hours to preheat, mix, bake, frost and package? I for one, don’t fancy making cookies though I do have my favorites. Thankfully my kind neighbors have loaded me up with some tasty treats so I don’t need to battle flour and sugar strewn over my countertops.
The good news is that plenty of bakeries, specialty shops and grocery stores offer lots of cookies—bagged, boxed, tinned and wrapped. From traditional cookies we all know and love to ethnic favorites like Polish almond cookies, Italian struffoli or besitos de coco, a Puerto Rican coconut delight, your holiday dessert table is sure to have a plentiful tray of sweets. You can also embellish the tray with extra treats like figs, almond-covered date rolls, peppermint bark or nut brittle.
Some of my favorite places for holiday cookies and treats are Bake, Bittersweet and Sweet Mandy B’s. Theater critic Nancy Bishop recommends Shokolad Pastry and Cafe in Ukrainian Village for their cookie array as well as their fabulous cakes at any time of year. (She also recommends it as a favorite neighborhood cafe for lunch.)
To me, the holidays cry for cut-outs and anything with chocolate, nuts and peppermint.
Here’s a fantastic recipe from Minimalist Baker:
Chewy Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (approx 12 cookies)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened // 1 stick = 1/2 cup)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 tsp natural peppermint extract
- 1-1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (or whole-wheat pastry)
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 candy cane (finely crushed)
- 1/3 cup dark, bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C).
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together for about 1-2 minutes. Add egg, peppermint extract and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as you go to ensure even mixing.
Add flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder to a sifter and sift gradually over the wet ingredients mixing as you go. Mix until well combined.
Add chocolate chips and stir in with a mixing spoon and then chill in the freezer for 10 minutes while the oven finishes heating.
Form the dough into small balls (heaping 1 Tbsp) and place 1.5 inches apart on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the tops down and then top with a few more chocolate chips (to indicate what’s inside).
Bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges should start to dry but the tops will still be slightly soft looking. Sprinkle crushed candy cane on immediately and let set on the cookie sheet for a few minutes more.
Transfer to a cooling rack to rest until completely cooled. Store in an airtight container to keep fresh for up to a few days or freeze for several weeks.