In the tradition of my mother, each year I make lots of cookies at Christmastime. In the past three days, I have made fifteen dozen cookies. Before Christmas I will most likely end up making 20-25 dozen cookies in all. When my mother made cookies, she always made tea cakes in Christmas themed shapes, covering them with icing and sprinkles. My mother and my sister still make these, so I make a different cookie. I make what I call the "Ultimate Christmas Cookie." These cookies are pistachio/cherry cookies dipped in white chocolate. With the red cherries and green pistachios, they have a natural Christmas color to them. I first saw this recipe on a Food Network holiday cookie special, but have since made it enough times to make some adjustments of my own to them. People always seem to love them.
This year, as with last year, I also made a tropical variation in honor of a wonderful friend of mine who lives in Hawaii. This variation uses macadamia nuts and pineapple instead of the pistachios and cherries. Many people who have tried them, like these even better. If you can find dried peaches, you can also use pecans and peaches for a nice southern flavor, and I've been told that pecans and cranberries is another delicious variation, but I've never tried it.
In addition to the pistachio/cherry and macadamia nut/pineapple cookies, I also tried a new cookie this year, pecan caramel shortbread cookies. These cookies turned out to be my favorite cookie ever. So I am posting the recipe for both cookies.
Ultimate Christmas Cookies
1 (8-ounce) roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1 (11-ounce) bag white chocolate chips
Open sugar cookie log and press into a rectangle on cutting board. Add pistachios and cherries, kneading/mixing into the dough, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but preferably overnight. If you keep them refrigerated overnight, the flavors meld together for a more delicious cookie.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Using a cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out cookies and make a one inch ball of dough. Slightly press the ball to flatten the cookies a little. Transfer cookies to a baking sheet.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until golden around the edges. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
While cookies are cooling, melt white chocolate chips in a bowl over simmering water. (Microwaving for 1 min. 30 sec. on medium power gets this process working quicker. Then place bowl over simmering water to finish the melting process.)
When cookies are cool, dip bottom half of cookies into melted white chocolate and place on waxed or parchment paper to cool.
The green of the pistachios and the red of the dried cherries makes a wonderful Christmas themed cookie. To add a little more festivity to them, I often sprinkle some red and green sprinkles on the white chocolate before it hardens.
Pecan Caramel Shortbread Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup finely Chopped Pecans
1/2 cup of caramel pieces (or toffee bits)
1 (11-ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar; stir in vanilla. Add flour; mix on low until well blended. Stir in pecans and caramel bits; mix well. Press the cookie dough together to form a log, wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Slice the log of dough so that the cookies are roughly 1/2 inch thick; press the cookie slightly to make sure that the dough is compacted together and retains its shape and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350° F for 15-18 minutes or until bottom edges are golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack.
While cookies are cooling, melt chocolate chips in a bowl over simmering water. (Microwaving for 1 min. 30 sec. on medium power gets this process working quicker. Then place bowl over simmering water to finish the melting process.)
When chocolate has melted, spread chocolate on the bottom of the cookies and place on waxed or parchment paper to cool.
By the way, a word of advice on each of these cookies: if you freeze the dried fruit and the caramel pieces overnight, they are much easier to chop, especially if using a food processor. They these ingredients aren't frozen then they will clump up on the food processor blade. In the case of the caramel bits, if they are not frozen, they slide around the blades of the food processor and generally make a mess.