From my experience, holiday cookies go one of two ways: utter disaster or utter perfection. Chalk it up to endless holiday parties, casual kitchen drinking, end-of-term goo brain, or all three. It adds to the fun, no? And, say your batch of cookies flops, the blunder should make for an entertaining story next holiday season.
In this high-risk spirit, here are my two favourite cookie recipes, a standard (i.e., consistently reliable) chocolate chip and seemingly simple (i.e., consistently unreliable) shortbread from my one of my most beloved Christmas gifts, the 75th anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking. Admittedly, the latter of the two recipes must deliver for some bakers. (It’s a Joy recipe!) However, in my approximately twelve years of baking, I have yet to turn out a respectable batch of shortbread. Every time it’s either too crumbly or impossibly stiff. On the other hand, chocolate chip has become my signature bake. Whether you eat the whole batch out of desire or because no one else will, make cookies part of your holiday traditions.
Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Joy of Cooking, 2006)
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ tsp salt
3 tsp vanilla
1 300g-pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk together flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.
- Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl until well blended before adding eggs, salt and vanilla and beating further.
- Stir the flour mixture into the butter until smooth. Add chocolate chips and stir again until combined.
- Using an ice cream scoop, drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls about two inches apart onto the cookie sheets. Bake one sheet at a time until the cookies are just slighted coloured on top and the edges brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool completed.
Scotch Shortbread (from Joy of Cooking, 2006)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup + 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
¼ tsp salt
1½ cups all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 300 F.
- Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, ¼ cup sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir in flour.
- Lightly knead the dough until blended. Press it evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 8-inch square baking pan, pierce the dough deeply with a fork all over in a decorative pattern and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
- Bake until the shortbread is lightly browned and darker at the edges, 45 to 50 minutes. Immediately cut into bars while still warm, then cool in the pan or on a rack.