Fresno bakers share favorite holiday cookie recipes

The Fresno BeeDecember 16, 2013 

If you haven't already done your holiday baking, local food bloggers and home cooks have a few delicious suggestions for cookies that will make you the envy of any cookie exchange or Christmas party.

These cookie recipes use the best of holiday ingredients, like rich chocolate, peppermint and ginger. The cookies run the gamut from sweet and fruity to chewy and chocolaty.

Getting the jump on her holiday baking recently was Jessica DeGrange, a central Fresno mother of four, who devotes an entire day to making cookies and other holiday goodies.

When she was younger, DeGrange and about 10 of her family members would gather every year at her grandmother's house in Illinois to bake for the holidays.

"It was our tradition," she says. "There were always lots of stories to tell, lots of conversations and lots of memories."

Although there are a lot fewer people in her house when she bakes now, she still churns out dozens of cookies, including coconut apricot balls, chocolate crinkles and her grandmother Pat's gingersnaps.

"We make tons of cookies and I give them to my kid's teachers, neighbors and co-workers," DeGrange says. "Making cookies is one of the fun parts of the holidays."

To help spread some holiday cheer, DeGrange and others, including Serena Locatelli of Mammarella's Sweets and Treats and Raven Masse of Cookie Couture Fresno, have shared several cookie recipes.

Coconut apricot balls

3 cups dried apricots, finely chopped or run through a food processor

4 cups coconut (plus more for rolling, optional)

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Powdered sugar (optional)

Mix all ingredients together then roll into balls. Roll in extra coconut or powdered sugar to coat.

— Jessica DeGrange

Grandma Pat's gingersnaps

3/4 cup soft butter or margarine

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

21/4 cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream butter, sugar, egg and molasses until light and fluffy. Mix in all dry ingredients. Chill dough for 30 minutes. Roll into 1 inch balls. Dip the end of a glass in sugar and use it to flatten the cookie. Bake at 375 for 8 to 10 minutes.

— Jessica DeGrange

Chocolate crinkles

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoon vanilla

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled

4 eggs

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup powdered sugar

Mix sugar, oil, vanilla, and chocolate in a large bowl. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Heat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls into powdered sugar; roll to coat. Shape into balls. Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until almost no indentations remains when touched. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

— Jessica DeGrange

Mammarella's candy cane goodness cookies

2 3/4 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup room temperature butter

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4-5 tablespoons buttermilk

12 candy cane Oreos (crushed)

1 tablespoon red food coloring or gel

Crushed up candy canes for garnish

Preheat oven to 375. In small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and set aside. In large bowl, mix together butter and sugar until blended. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually add in dry ingredients then add in buttermilk.

Add in crushed Oreos and food coloring until well blended. Roll dough into balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. Let cool before removing to cooling rack.

— Serena Locatelli, of Mammarella's Sweets and Treats on Facebook

Chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon freshly grated peeled ginger

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon boiling water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cocoa. In a separate bowl beat butter and ginger with an electric mixer until lightened, about 3 minutes. Add brown sugar and beat until combined. Add molasses, beat until combined.

In a small bowl dissolve water and baking soda. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking soda mixture, then the remaining half of the flour mixture. After combined, place mixture in a gallon-size freezer bag, pat until flat. Close tight, and freeze for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325, roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls, roll in granulated sugar, place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake until surfaces just begin to crack, about 10-12 minutes. Cool, move to wire rack and then cool completely.

— Raven Masse, Cookie Couture Fresno, www.cookiecouturefresno.com

Peppermint frosted chocolate sugar cookie bars

1 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups of sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla

4 ounces of melted semi-sweet chocolate

2 tablespoons of unsweetened coco powder

4 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375.

Combine all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until it is fluffy and light. Continue mixing and add the eggs and the vanilla. Slowly add in the dry ingredients until combined. Press the dough into a greased 13x18 inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Peppermint frosting

1 cup of butter, room temperature

3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of peppermint extract

2-3 tablespoons of milk

Using the mixer, cream the butter until it is light. Add the vanilla, peppermint, and powdered sugar and mix together. Slowly add the milk until the frosting reaches the consistency you want.

— Jennifer Curtis, alwaysinwonder.com

Sachertorte cookies

1 cup of softened butter

1, 4-ounce package of instant chocolate pudding mix

2 cups of flour

1 egg

3 tablespoons sugar (enough to coat balled cookies)

2/3 to 3/4 cup of cherry preserves (get the best quality preserves you can find. If you can't find cherry, apricot preserves will also work)

1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons butter

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine 1 cup butter and instant pudding mix. Beat until fluffy and then add the egg; stir again until light and fluffy. Add the flour slowly until combined. The dough will be sticky. Roll dough into 1-inch balls; roll each ball in sugar. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Make a thumb print in each cookie. Bake for 15-17 minutes.

Cool the cookies and then fill the thumb prints with a small spoonful of preserves.

Topping: Heat 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons of butter in a small pan. Drizzle over each cookie and let cool.

-- Hannah Furfaro

Czech linz cookies

8.8 oz. flour

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

3.5 oz. sugar

3 egg yolks

Pinch baking powder

Pinch lemon zest

Marmalade and jam (various flavors)

6 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate chips

6 oz. Unsalted almonds or walnuts

Use a digital kitchen scale to measure out flour, butter and sugar. In a mixer, cream together room-temperature butter with flour and sugar. Add egg yolks, baking powder and lemon zest, mix until well combined.

Divide dough in half and wrap each ball in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or until completely chilled.

When you are ready to roll out the cookies, preheat oven to 350. Place a piece of parchment paper on a flat work surface. Sprinkle flour evenly over parchment paper and place the dough on top. Sprinkle flour on top of the dough, then cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll out to approximately 1/8" thickness, checking frequently to make sure the dough is not sticking to the parchment paper.

TIP: When working with the dough, you will need to work quickly or the butter in the dough will melt. If the dough gets too warm, place it in the freezer for a few minutes. You can even put the rolled-out sheet (between the two pieces of parchment paper) in the freezer before you use the cookie cutters.

Use cookie cutters to make shapes. For the fruit-filled cookies, make two of the same shape: one regular, and one with the center removed (I used a thimble to remove the center). For the nut-topped cookies, you will make two of the same shape to sandwich together.

Bake for 9 minutes, or just until the edges barely begin to brown. Cool on wire racks.

For the fruit-filled cookies, spread marmalade or jam on the bottom (pan-side) of the regular cookie, then place the same shape (with center hole removed) on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

For the nut-topped cookies, use a double-boiler to melt chocolate chips. Spread marmalade or jam on the bottom (pan-side) of the regular cookie, then place the same shape on top. Place a small dab of melted chocolate on top of the cookie, then place an almond or walnut on top of that.

Store finished cookies at room temperature (cookies taste better at least 1 day after baking).

-- Anna Palecek, www.ourlifeinmeals.com

Two Sisters snickerdoodles

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup pure vegetable shortening

1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, plus more if needed

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine.

In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small (1 1/4-ounce) ice-cream scoop to form balls of the dough and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after 5 minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Two Sisters Fresno

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, brodriguez@fresnobee.com or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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