Photo by Alfa Photostudio / Shutterstock
From cookie exchanges to holiday parties to finding the right hostess gift, sweets are a beloved part of the season, and the options are endless. In preparation for the season, professional pastry chefs and bakers share their creations and tips for the best holiday cookies.
Tracy Dempsey Originals
Tracy Dempsey, owner of Tracy Dempsey Originals in Tempe, Arizona, is one of the area’s most well-known pastry chefs. In addition to creating and selling beautiful desserts, she conducts classes to teach people how to cook and bake.
One of her favorite holiday cookies is a chocolate French macaron with candy cane chocolate ganache. This gluten-free treat is made with egg whites, almond flour, dark cocoa powder, powdered and pure cane sugar, cream, crushed candy canes and peppermint oil.
Lay out all ingredients ahead of time before mixing anything. Use Silpat baking mats or parchment paper for nonstick baking and easy cleanup.
Dempsey believes thoughtful planning is critical to holiday baking. “Plan your day of cookie baking,” she said. “Lay out all ingredients ahead of time before mixing anything. Use Silpat baking mats or parchment paper for nonstick baking and easy cleanup. Many drop cookies lend themselves to being pre-scooped and frozen unbaked until needed, which is a great timesaver.”
Sugar cookies are a perennial holiday favorite as they are nostalgic, delicious and fun to decorate.
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Karys Clancy of Clancy Creations in Kuna, Idaho enjoys creating edible art out of vanilla almond sugar cookies with royal icing using festive color palettes and simple designs.
“Use shapes that can use the same color of icing on the design to minimize the number of colors you have to mix,” she suggested.
Baking is a science, so it is important to make sure that measurements and temperatures are precise.
Maggie Norris owns Whisked Away Cooking School in Phoenix and has a lifelong passion for baking. One of her holiday favorites is double chocolate mint cream sandwich cookies. As an instructor she has many helpful tips for holiday baking and flavor combinations.
“Peppermint is an ingredient that screams holiday and pairs well with chocolate,” she said. “These chocolate mint sandwich cookies are easy to make, and the dough can be made ahead of time. A lot of doughs, crusts and fillings can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator or freezer. You can even freeze cookies that are already made.”
Whisked Away Cooking School
Baking is a science, so it is important to make sure that measurements and temperatures are precise. “When your oven says it is preheated, wait another 15 minutes to ensure the entire oven is preheated,” said Norris. “A preheated oven is especially important for baking.”
Baking ingredients also need to be at the right temperature to ensure the best product. “To quickly get your eggs to room temperature, put them in a bowl of lukewarm water. For butter straight from the refrigerator, cut it into small cubes to get it to room temperature faster. Popping butter in the microwave can potentially change the chemical structure which will change the end result of your product.”
Photo by sarsmis / Shutterstock
Norris has other helpful tips. “To keep honey, maple syrup and corn syrup from sticking, spray your measuring vessel with cooking spray and the sticky ingredients will slide right out. Make sure you know the difference between a dry and a liquid measuring cup. They are not the same thing and mis-measurements in baking can ruin a recipe.”
Holiday baking can be a fun activity and by using these simple tips you can make tasty and beautiful treats and create special memories.
Make these signature sugar cookies.
• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 cup sour cream
1. In large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
2. Using electric mixer cream together butter and sugar until fluffy and pale.
3. Add eggs and vanilla until combined.
4. Add sour cream.
5. Slowly add flour mixture, mix until just combined. Do not over mix.
6. Divide dough into two balls, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
7. Roll out dough on floured parchment paper. Cut into holiday shapes.
8. Bake at 375 degrees on parchment-lined cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown.
9. Remove to wire rack to cool. Once cooled decorate with your favorite frosting and sprinkles.