Recipes by Vivi: Holiday Cookies

Vivi Mazarakis is the author of Forking DC. You can read her previous columns here.

Sometimes edible gifts are the best. This holiday season, I’ve decided to give friends festive tins filled with three of my favorite cookies as gifts. Below are recipes for Kourabiedes (traditional Greek cookies), Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies, and Florentines. Incorporate one or all of these cookie recipes into your holiday baking rotation and you won’t be disappointed!

Kourabiedes

Pronounced “kou-ra-bee-yeh-thes,” these Greek cookies are traditionally made for Christmas and Easter. Simply put, they are buttery and doused in powdered sugar. Need I say more?

1 c toasted slivered almonds (coarsely chopped)
1 1/2 c butter, room temperature
1/2 c powdered sugar plus additional for coating
3 egg yolks
1/2 c orange juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp brandy
3 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

Beat together the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolks. Add the orange juice, extracts, and brandy. Slowly mix in the flour (1/2 a cup at a time). Try not to overwork the dough. You’ve added enough flour when the dough tightens up, but is still a little wet. Add the almonds and mix to combine.

Take about a tablespoon of the dough and form it into a ball. Place it on a lightly greased baking sheet and press down slightly. Repeat until you have used up all the dough. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a very light golden color.

Fill a bowl with about a cup of powdered sugar. While the cookies are still warm, immerse the cookies into the powdered sugar one at a time. Gently toss each cookie around until it is completely coated. I like to place each coated cookie in its very own paper cupcake liner. The liners work well because they make storage and consumption easy and neat. Add powdered sugar to your bowl as needed to coat all of the cookies. (Yields approx. 36 cookies)

Eating tip: Don’t inhale too deeply when you bite into this cookie unless you like living on the edge. Inhaling will deliver a healthy sample of powdered sugar down your throat, which, in turn, will cause you to choke. That’s not a very merry experience. Otherwise, this cookie is delicious and safe to eat.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

Who doesn’t love an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie? What I really like about this recipe is that the cookies come out chewy, rich and decadent, yet they’re a tad healthier than the traditional version. That’s because some of the butter is replaced with coconut oil and some of the all-purpose flour is replaced with whole-wheat flour. Add a little oatmeal to keep you “regular” and you have what I like to call a powerhouse oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. For those unfamiliar with coconut oil, it actually has a quite a few health benefits and can be found at Whole Foods and Harris Teeter.

Continues after the jump.

1/2 c cold unsalted butter (cubed)
1/2 c coconut oil
2/3 c granulated sugar
2/3 c light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 c all-purpose flour
2/3 c whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 c rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1 c semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Beat the coconut oil and butter together until creamy. Incorporate granulated and brown sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix to combine. In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not overbeat. Finally, fold in the rolled oats, chocolate chips, and walnuts. Chill the cookie dough for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Form about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough into a ball. Place onto baking sheet. Flatten the ball slightly and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Leave at least two inches between each cookie since they will spread a bit. Bake for about 8 minutes or until light golden brown. The cookies’ centers will be slightly gooey. That’s ok. Allow them to cool 1 to 2 minutes and then dig in. (Yields approx. 24 cookies)

Freezing tip: You can also freeze the cookie dough for up to 8 weeks. Simply roll the dough into a log about 2.5 inches in diameter. Roll in parchment paper, then plastic wrap and then foil. When you’re ready to bake, slice off half-inch discs and bake according to the instructions above. No thawing required.

Florentines

These Italian sandwich cookies look fancy but they’re easy to make. They are delicate and nutty, with just enough chocolate to satisfy any chocolate-lover’s craving. I just love them, and I hope you do too.

2 c sliced almonds, chopped
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp grated orange zest
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c butter
1/3 c whipping cream
2 tbsp honey
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

Combine almonds, orange zest, and flour in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, honey, cream, and butter. Cook until sugar has dissolved and add the mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly and allow the mixture to cool (about 15 minutes).

Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a teaspoon of the batter onto the parchment paper and flatten the mound slightly. Make sure you leave enough space between each cookie, as they will spread quite a bit. For example, I made about 6 cookies per large baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until the cookies’ edges are light brown. Baking times will vary and the cookies burn easily so keep a close eye on them until you get the timing down. Repeat the process, using new parchment paper for each batch, until all of the batter has been used.

Slide the parchment paper off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack. Be careful. The cookies are quite delicate. Once completely cooled, gently remove cookies from the parchment paper and transfer them to paper towels for just a few minutes.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. For the majority of us that don’t have an actual double boiler, you can easily rig one up by placing a glass bowl over a saucepan containing a few inches of water. The key is to make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Place the saucepan over medium heat and add the chocolate chips to the glass bowl. Heat until the chocolate is completely melted and silky smooth. Remove from heat. Take one cookie, turn it bottom-side up and spread some of the melted chocolate on it. Place another cookie, bottom-side down, on top to form a sandwich. Because the cookies are lacy, this process may be a little messy. Usually I lay the cookies on parchment paper or leave them on the paper towels as I spread the chocolate on every other cookie. Also, don’t worry if the cookies come out different shapes and sizes. Just try to match up cookies of roughly the same size and shape. (Yields approx. 28 sandwich cookies)

2 Comment

  • Florentines are super-delicious – but be warned that they have to be kept in an absolutely air-tight container to not go soggy. And even then, they probably will.

  • For some reason I’ve never made Florentines, which is odd because they’re made out of all my favorite things. Maybe I will give your recipe a try!

    Oh, and I’ve become obsessed with coconut oil. I love the subtle sweetness it brings to savory dishes, and it does double duty as a hair and skin moisturizer if you’re prone to dryness this time of year. I met an elderly woman in India who had the most beautiful skin, and she credited it entirely to daily applications of coconut oil.

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