Christmas cookies, as simple as possible

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 17, 2019

By Deirdre Parker Smith

This time of year, demand for cookies is high. We all love those carefully crafted sugar cookies, decorated with icing and sprinkles and tiny chocolate chips.

We will bite the heads off of smiling gingerbread people, or demolish a house decorated with gumdrops and dusted in powdered sugar snow.

But sometimes, we just need an easy cookie, no rolling and chilling needed, no need for precise icing piping, just something the kids can take to school or you can deliver to your neighbors.

A couple of these recipes are very kid friendly, and they can do almost the whole thing themselves. We also included a little nostalgia and a couple of new things if you want to get fancy but keep it simple.

Nigella Lawson’s Merookies

2 large egg whites at room temperature

Pinch of salt

3 1/2 oz. (scant 1/2 cup) superfine sugar

1 tsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. cider or white wine vinegar

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

2 1/2 oz. (1/3 cup) mini dark chocolate chips

2 1/2 oz. (1/3 cup) finely chopped pistachios

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the egg whites and salt until you have soft peaks. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time until the mixture is thick and shiny.

By hand, fold in the cornstarch, vinegar and cardamom, the chocolate chips and most of the pistachios.

With a spoon, drop mounded spoonfuls of the mixture about 2 inches in diameter, onto the prepared tray, Sprinkle with the remaining pistachios.

Put the cookies in the oven, close the door and turn off the oven immediately. Let the cookies sit in the turned-off oven overnight. Do not open the oven until morning.

These cookies are great to make with kids, and remind me of a recipe I learned in junior high home economics. We used a boxed cake mix and added a large tub of Cool Whip. They were super easy and I made them with every flavor cake mix I could find.

This version is a little different, but it’s something anyone can whip up and the results are good. Adding nuts or chips or dried fruit is always an option to make them your own.

Here is the general recipe:

Cake Mix Cookies

2 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 (15.25 oz.) package cake mix, any flavor

1 cup mix ins, such as chocolate chips

Powdered sugar (optional)

Arrange two racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the eggs and vegetable oil in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Use a fine mesh strainer to sift the cake mix into the egg mixture to break up any large lumps. Using a spatula, stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened and a dough forms. Add chips, nuts, etc. and stir to combine.

Scoop the dough into 2 Tbsp. portions. If making crinkle cookies, roll in powdered sugar and refrigerate until chilled, about 20 minutes. Arrange on prepared baking sheets, leaving one inch between each cookie, about 12 per sheet.

Bake about 10 minutes, until cookies are set. Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

Suggestions: Use devil’s food cake and add dark or white chocolate chips; try red velvet with white chocolate chips; spice cake with cinnamon chips; lemon with a little grated lemon zest or chopped pistachios; yellow cake mix topped with pecan halves; devil’s food or white with dried cranberries; yellow cake mix with chopped dried apricot and chopped pecans. Whatever you can imagine will work.

Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies

1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

1/2 tsp. salt

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 large egg whites

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup ground walnuts

1 tsp. lemon extract

1 cup blackberry jelly

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugar together thoroughly; add egg yolk and salt and combine. Add flour and combine. Pat mixture into a 9-by-13-inch pan.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually add 1 cup sugar. Continue to beat until you reach a meringue consistency. Gently fold in nuts and lemon extract.

Spread jelly over the dough mixture in the pan. Swirl meringue over jelly. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

Bake about 40 minutes. To cut, use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion.

Keep in an airtight container or freeze in a hard-sided container that will protect the cookies.

Gonna Want Seconds

Say Haystack Cookies to people of a certain age and watch as their faces light up with nostalgic memories. The good thing is we are still making them, in a wide variety of flavors, and none of them require baking time. Just patience. And this is another cookie kids love to make. They’ll get messy, but have fun. While these were once chocolate and butterscotch or chocolate and peanut butter, the flavor combos have increased. Now some are just plain butterscotch or butterscotch and while chocolate.  Or peanut butter and butterscotch.

Haystack Cookies

12 oz. milk chocolate chips

12 oz. butterscotch chips

12 oz. chow mein noodles

1/4 cup sprinkles

Place the milk chocolate and butterscotch chips in a large bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments until melted. Stir until smooth.

Add the chow mein noodles to the bowl and toss to coat.

Spoon about 2 Tbsp. of the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper and shape into a mound. Decorate with sprinkles. Makes about 12 cookies.

Let sit until firm, then serve. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Peanut Butter Haystack Cookies

12 oz. white chocolate melting discs

12 oz. butterscotch chips

1 cup peanut butter (not natural peanut butter)

12 oz. chow mein noodles

Add the white chocolate and butterscotch chips together in a large, microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring well after each interval, until fully melted.

Stir in the chow mein noodles and peanut butter until well mixed.

Using a 2 Tbsp. sized scoop, scoop out 30 cookies onto parchment paper lined baking sheets and let them sit at room temperature for 1 hour to harden or put in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.

Santa’s Trash Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp. vanilla

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/3 cup crushed potato chips

1/3 cup crushed pretzels

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 Tbsp. red and green sprinkles

Flaky sea salt, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.

Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt until combined. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until smooth. Dough will be thick.

Gently fold in potato chips, pretzels, chocolate chips and sprinkles.

Scoop tablespoon-size balls of dough and put them on prepared sheets. Slightly press them down and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake until edges are just staring to become golden, 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Store in a resealable container for up to 1 week.