There are so many Christmas cookie recipes around but often so little time to bake during the busy holiday season.
The solution? A great tasting basic cookie recipe that quickly and easily turns into such a variety of easy to make Christmas treats, friends and family will think you poured over all your favorite Christmas cookie recipes.
Let's start with the basics.
1/2 cup (or 1 stick) butter (or margarine) at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the flour. Beat with an electric mixer, scraping the sides of the bowl several times, until the mixture is light and fluffy. With mixer at a low speed, add the flour gradually, beating just until everything is well blended.
Place the mixture on a baking sheet using a tablespoon measure and press down with a spoon to flatten a bit. Or roll our and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake at 350ºF for about 12 to 15 minutes, until golden.
This basic cookie mixture is also the base for the following cookie recipes (all baked in a preheated oven at 350ºF).
Add 1 tablespoon of grated orange zest to the recipe. Shape into a log that is about 1 1/2" in diameter and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Slice dough into 1/4" thick slices. Place on cookie sheet. Cookies can be decorated with candies, rolled in colored sugar, or cut into pretty holiday shapes before baking. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, well drained and coarsely chopped
Line a 13"x9" baking pan with foil.
Stir cocoa powder into basic dough mixture. Press evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the crust looks dry.
In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, almond extract and baking powder until well blended. Stir in coconut and cherries. Pour over the baked crust.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top just begins to brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Lift it out on to a cutting board using the foil ends and cut into 1 1/2" squares. Squares can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
1/3 cup pineapple preserves (use raspberry or apricot if you prefer)
Add 1 cup of the flaked coconut to the basic dough mixture and mix well. Shape the dough into 1 1/2" balls and roll in the remaining coconut to coat them. Place the balls 1" apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Make a deep indentation in the center of each cookie with your fingertip.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookie is firm and the coconut is lightly toasted. When cooled, fill each hole in the center of the cookies with the preserves.
Yields: about 36 cookies
You can vary this basic dough to make a wide variety of Christmas cookie recipes. Add other flavorings like maple, ginger or cinnamon. Add chopped dried fruits like apricots or dates. Or bake them plain in holiday shapes and decorate with colored icing.
Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. Here's hoping these quick and easy Christmas cookie recipes help keep the pressure off the cook.
Editor's Note: Karen Ciancio is a cook and lover of all things food and cooking related. Her website contains easy dessert recipes, plus lots of other recipes, cooking tips, measurement conversions and kitchen ideas.