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5 cookie recipes for the best holiday ever

Happy Bake Cookies Day! Yes, there is an entire day dedicated to baking cookies, and it conveniently happens to fall close to the winter holidays. So, if you’d like to celebrate what is, in my humble opinion, the best holiday ever, or if you’re just looking for a way to fill your time away from the office, warm your heart (and your oven) with one of these cookie recipes crowdsourced from Association employees.

Hungarian Butter Cookies

Hungarian butter cookies
This one is a family recipe from Communications Manager Alexis Rothberg. I can confirm that Alexis’s dessert skills are top notch, so this one is bound to be a winner.

Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 egg, separated

2 cups all-purpose flour

Raspberry jam (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two baking sheets and set them aside.
  2. Combine butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a medium bowl. Mix until smooth (about 1 minute). Add in the egg yolk and stir to combine. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated.
  3. Form a ball of the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  4. Using a teaspoon-sized cookie scoop, measure the dough and roll it in your hand to make a little round ball. Place it on the baking sheet and, using your thumb, make an imprint in the center of the cookie. Place a small amount of jam in the center of the cookie, if using.
  5. Beat the remaining egg white in a bowl and using a brush, paint the top of each cookie.
  6. Bake 12-15 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.

Award-Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

Soft chocolate chip cookies

Image via Allrecipes

Carl Mayes, CPA, Senior Manager–Special Projects, is a fan of this recipe from Allrecipes. They may seem like your ordinary, run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookies, but the secret ingredient—instant vanilla pudding mix—takes these treats to a whole new level. Carl said his family bakes around 60 of these cookies every year and they’re gone pretty much immediately. You’ve been warned.

Ingredients

4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups butter, softened

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

2 3.4-oz packages instant vanilla pudding mix

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together the flour and baking soda; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown.  

Christmas Crack

Christmas crackImage via Simply Recipes

If you’ve never thought about combining chocolate, caramel and Saltine crackers before, it’s time to start. This recipe from Simply Recipes comes highly recommended “for the non-baker” by Chrissy Jones, Manager—Communications and Member Engagement (and thoroughly seconded by Heather O’Connor, Senior Manager—Communications).

Ingredients

28 to 35 saltine crackers (about one sleeve, enough to line your tray)

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups (10 to 12 ounces) chopped dark chocolate

OPTIONAL: ½ cup chopped nuts, coconut flakes or crunchy sea salt (to top the cookies with once you’ve poured the melted chocolate)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 10x15-inch jelly roll pan with nonstick aluminum foil (preferred) or regular heavy-duty foil, making sure that the foil completely covers the bottom and sides of the pan. If using regular foil, spray lightly with baking spray. Line the saltine crackers in a single layer on the bottom.
  2. Make the caramel sauce: Place the brown sugar, butter and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter melts. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3 to 5 minutes, just until the mixture comes to a boil and starts to darken. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

(Note: You're not actually making true caramel here, so you don't need to be as precise or worry about the temperature of the caramel. Just make sure it comes to a boil and wait for it to darken slightly, then continue.)

  1. Pour the hot brown sugar mixture over the saltine crackers. Spread to evenly coat the crackers.
  2. Move the pan to the oven and bake for 5 minutes. The caramel will be hot and bubbly.
  3. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook it in the microwave in 30-second intervals at full power, stirring between each cook time, until the chocolate has melted.
  4. Once the crackers are done baking, remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 minute, until the caramel is no longer bubbling. Then pour the melted chocolate over the crackers. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the top.
  5. Let the crackers cool to room temperature then move to the refrigerator and cool overnight.
  6. The crackers will form a single sheet once cool. Remove from pan and gently peel the foil away, being careful not to tear the foil. If any bits of foil tear and get stuck in the caramel, break those bits away and discard. Cut the candy into snack-sized pieces using a chef’s knife (you can use your hands, too, but it may be easier with a knife).
  7. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week.

Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Salty oatmeal chocolate chip cookiesImage via Barefoot Contessa

Alexis also suggested this recipe, which she adapted from Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead cookbook (original recipe here). If you’re a fan of a good sweet-and-salty combo, you’re going to love these cookies.

Ingredients

1/2 pound (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1¼ cups old-fashioned oats, such as Quaker

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

Fleur de sel

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 3 sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl again.
  3. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Mix in the oats. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Don’t overbeat it! With a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate until the dough is well mixed. With a 1¾-inch ice cream scoop (or two spoons), scoop round balls of dough onto the prepared sheet pans. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until nicely browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Eggnog Macarons

Eggnog macaronsFair warning: Macarons take some practice, and they probably won’t look perfect on your first try (unless you’re one of those crazy-talented kids from MasterChef Junior). But if you’re up for a challenge and you’ve got some time on your hands, baking these little French cookies can be a rewarding (and delicious) endeavor. I adapted this recipe from Les Petits Macarons by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride and a recipe from The Gunny Sack.

Note: These troubleshooting tips from Not So Humble Pie are helpful for first-time macaron bakers as well as the pros.

Ingredients for the shells

1 ¼ packed cups (165 grams) almond flour

¾ packed cup (165 grams) powdered sugar

Pinch fine sea salt

1 tablespoon (5 grams) powdered egg white (I found this on Amazon)

¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar

½ cup (115 grams) egg whites (from 4 eggs)

½ teaspoon (3 grams) cream of tartar

Gel food coloring (optional)

Directions for the shells (adapted from Les Petits Macarons)

  1. Line baking sheets with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  2. Place the almond flour, powdered sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 4 times for 3 seconds each to combine them. Scrape the sides of the bowl in between pulses with a spatula.
  3. Sift the flour and sugar into a clean bowl with a fine-mesh strainer. If large lumps remain, you can either break them up with the food processor and sift them again or discard them.
  4. With a hand whisk, whisk together the powdered egg whites and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk in the egg whites and cream of tartar until the mixture is homogenous.
  5. Set the bowl and whisk attachment on the mixer and whisk on medium speed until the meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks, about 11 minutes.
  6. With a spatula, fold the sifted dry ingredients into the meringue using a J-folding technique: Draw the spatula down the center of the bowl and scrape it up toward the left-side quarter of the bowl (9 o’clock), forming the letter “J.” Scrape down the side of the bowl as you rotate it by 90 degrees and repeat.*
  7. If using food coloring, stop when the batter appears to be 90 percent incorporated, scrape the sides of the bowl and fold in the food coloring.
  8. The batter will be complete when it flows like lava. To test the viscosity of the batter, pick some of it up with the spatula and try to pour a ribbon of batter back into the bowl in a continuous figure 8 pattern. If it breaks, fold the batter a few more times and try again. Be careful to stop RIGHT when you can make the continuous figure 8; it’s better to slightly undermix the batter than overmix it.
  9. Spoon the batter in a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip. Fill the bag halfway, leaving the rest of the batter in the bowl while piping; cover it with plastic wrap until you need to pipe it. Twist the top of the pastry bag to close.
  10. Pipe the meringue on the silicone mat or parchment-lined baking sheet into quarter-size mounds, 1 ½ inches apart from one another. To pipe circles, hold the tip of the bag at a 90-degree angle ¼ inch above the baking sheet and firmly squeeze it until the batter reaches the desired size (it will spread slightly after piping) and is about ¼ inch high. Do not move the bag while squeezing out the batter. If you need help piping circles, you can print a template and place it under your silicone mat or parchment paper to guide you; just make sure to remove it before you put the baking sheets in the oven.
  11. Firmly slam the baking sheet down on the counter to remove excess air, lifting the sheet about 6 inches above the table, about 6 times. Don’t be afraid to really slam them; this will remove air bubbles that lead to hollow shells.
  12. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.**
  13. Leave the baking sheet with the piped batter out on the counter until the macarons dry out and form a skin; they will be ready to bake once the surface of the macarons become dull and you can lightly touch the tops without any of the batter transferring to your fingers. This could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how humid your baking environment is (that’s why baking these on a rainy or humid day isn’t recommended). Be patient; this step is key to avoiding cracked shells and developing the signature macaron “feet.”
  14. Bake the shells just until the foot and edge of the shells feel firm and they just come off the parchment paper or silicone mat, about 17 minutes.** Let the shells cool completely before assembling and filling the macarons.
  15. If you’d like to decorate the shells, you can draw patterns with edible markers or pipe colorful royal icing on top.

*This step actually has a name—“macaronage”—and can be pretty tricky. I’ve found watching YouTube videos of this step to be helpful.

**You may need to experiment with temperatures and times to find what works best for your oven. Everyone’s oven is slightly different, and even a five-degree temperature difference can affect macarons.

Ingredients for the eggnog buttercream filling

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp cinnamon

4 cups powdered sugar

2 tbsp eggnog

Directions for the filling (from The Gunny Sack)

  1. Beat butter and shortening until creamy and light in color.
  2. Mix in the vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  3. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, with the mixer on low speed. After the second cup, add one tablespoon of eggnog. Then, add the last two cups of powdered sugar and finally the last tablespoon of eggnog. Beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Arrange the macaron shells on a cooling rack and pair up shells that are similar in size. Turn one of each pair over so their flat side faces you.
  5. Spoon the eggnog buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip. Fill it halfway, leaving the rest of the buttercream in the bowl while piping. Twist the top of the bag to close.
  6. Similarly to how you piped the macaron shells, pipe dollops of buttercream on the flipped shells of each pair, making mounds about ½ inch high, leaving ¼ inch to the edges. Gently twist to sandwich the shells together securely.
  7. Store the macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For best results, let the macarons wait at least 24 hours (preferably 48) in the fridge before eating them. While in the fridge, some of the filling will seep into the shells, making them softer and fluffy. They’ll still taste good if you eat them right away, but they will be pretty crunchy.

Michelle Lewis, Lead Manager, Communications—Quality Initiatives, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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