Stepping Out

Sweet moments in the kitchen

Head into the holiday season with a cookie exchange

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Get set to welcome the holidays with a festive cookie swap. Share some homemade goodness by inviting friends and family over for some tasty treats. Everyone can get in on the act to see who is the top baker of your group.

The entire family can participate and create a makeshift holiday workshop. Have one person measure all of the ingredients, another can mix everything together, and everyone can have fun decorating to favorite holiday tunes. It’s a great way to relax and spend some special time together.

You may want to refresh those holiday favorites. Chocolate chip and gingerbread cookies are always classics, but find inspiration in trying something new.

Candy Cane Blossoms

48 Hershey’s Kisses Candy Cane Mint Candies

1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick) , softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons milk

1/3 cup red or green sugar crystals, granulated sugar or powdered sugar for rolling

Heat oven to 350° F. Remove wrappers from candies.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add alternately with milk to butter mixture, beating until well blended.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in red sugar, granulated sugar, powdered sugar or a combination of any of the sugars. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookie is set. Remove from oven; cool 2 to 3 minutes. Press a candy piece into center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes about 48 cookies.

Note: Add 6 ounces sweet baking chocolate, melted, cooled 10 minutes, to dough for a chocolate variation.

Melted Snowmen

3/4 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

Decorations:

12 large marshmallows

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1 drop red food coloring, or as desired

1 drop yellow food coloring, or as desired

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Beat butter in a bowl using an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat white sugar, baking powder, and salt into butter until just combined. Beat egg, milk, and vanilla extract into butter-sugar mixture; add flour and mix until dough is just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is slightly chilled, about 10 minutes.

Scoop dough into balls slightly larger than golf balls; flatten into cookies. Arrange cookies on a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until edges are golden brown, 10 to 20 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

Butter a microwave-safe plate. Place marshmallows on the prepared plate.

Microwave marshmallows until slightly puffed, 10 to 15 seconds. Gently press marshmallows until bottoms slightly ooze.

Whisk confectioners’ sugar and water together in a bowl until icing is slightly thicker than drizzle-consistency. Pour icing over cookies so it runs over the edges, reserving about 1 tablespoon.

Melt chocolate chips in a microwave-safe glass or ceramic bowl, about 30 seconds. Pour melted chocolate into a piping bag with a small tip or a plastic bag with a corner snipped.

Press 1 marshmallow close to an edge of each cookie to be the snowman’s head. Draw “stick arms” onto the icing using the melted chocolate.

Divide the reserved 1 tablespoon icing into 2 small bowls. Mix red food coloring into 1 of the bowls and orange food coloring into the other bowl. Decorate the snowmen with scarves or ties using the red icing and yellow icing.

Chocolate Snowballs

3/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until set and bottoms are lightly browned, 15-20 minutes. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Roll warm cookies in confectioners’ sugar. Cool completely on wire racks. If desired, reroll cookies in confectioners’ sugar.

Notes: Chopped pistachios, macadamia nuts or even almonds can be substituted for the pecans and walnuts if desired. Or omit the nuts and add more chocolate chips.