Christmas cookies have always meant a lot in our house. Over the years, holiday baking blitzes have featured gingerbread, cut-out sugar cookies, spritz cookies and some famous oatmeal raisin cookies. As you can see above, it’s usually been a family afair. Top: From left to right, that’s Derrick (now 20!), my momma (now younger than ever!) and me. I’d guess I was 4 or 5 in this picture. And bottom… well, I’m sure you can figure it out.
Last year I made my own cut-out sugar cookies. It was an hours-long ordeal. Finding the finesse to transport cut cookies from the table to the baking sheet took forever, small pans meant we had to cook batches upon batches upon batches of them. The last batch — “The Forgotton Ones” — as we now call them, stayed the oven about 20 minutes too long and resembled chocolate sugar cookies. We decorated them and baited innocent visitors with them beautifully displayed on our kitchen table. Lots of carbonated bits got spat out. It was hilarious.
This year, I decided to start things out with some non-traditional holiday cookies — another batch of peanut butter filled chocolate cookies for my Online Journalism class, miniature sticky buns and brown butter almond cookies. The resulting chaos in the kitchen made taking step by step photos difficult, but behold the sweets of my labor.
I used this recipe from Kristen at Dine and Dish. They were especially delicious because the ooey gooey glaze went down in the pan before the rolls and had a chance to soak in while they rose, and then baked.
I tweaked a version of a recipe posted on At the Baker’s Bench by substituting some almond extract for some of the vanilla extract. The result is a crumbly, buttery cookie with a subtle flavor and perfect texture for nibbling on with tea.
Brown Butter Almond Cookies
1 cup butter (I used salted)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (I used 1 tablespoon fine sugar with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract added)
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Blanched almonds halves or sliced almonds to decorate
In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter on low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned. Stir in sugar and vanilla sugar and continue to stir. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Combine flour and baking powder and beat in cooled butter mixture to form a smooth dough. Use your hands to combine all ingredients.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Roll small balls of dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter, or scoop cookies using a tablespoon.
Place dough balls about an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Press each ball of dough down using the tines of a fork. Top with half of a blanched almond or an almond slice.
Bake at 325 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until edges just start to turn golden. Remove from baking sheet after 1 minutes and let cool on wire racks.
Miniature Sticky Buns (called Caramel Rolls on Dine and Dish; originally from Recipezaar)
2 (1/4 ounce) packages yeast (2 T bulk)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter (let sit out until soft)
6 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons water
Let raise until dough is double in size — about 90 minutes.
Divide mixture into 3 pans (8-inch cake pans) or one large cake pan.