The busy-ness and stress of the holidays are real. If you love a good cookie swap or like to have cookies for co-workers, teachers, and neighbors throughout the season, a little baking now can save the day later.
Many cookies and bars freeze well and thaw, as if they were freshly baked. And icebox cookies – a name from a bygone era – are doughs you roll into logs and freeze. When you’re ready to bake, just thaw the log of dough, slice, and bake. No one will know when you really made them.
These recipes are a few of my favorites – easy to store and always a hit. Happy baking and happy holidays!
Gluten-free Coconut Macaroons
4 large egg whites
1-1/3 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2½ cups unsweetened flaked coconut
¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
In a heavy saucepan, stir together egg whites, sugar, salt, vanilla, and coconut. Sift in tapioca flour, and stir the mixture until it is combined well. Cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and it begins to pull away from the bottom and side of the pan (about 10 minutes). Transfer the mixture to a bowl, let it cool slightly, cover with plastic wrap, and chill it until cold. Drop heaping teaspoons of the dough 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Preheat oven to 300 degrees; bake on the middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the macaroons to a rack and cool.
Store macaroons separated by layers of wax paper in an airtight container: chilled for 5 days or frozen for 2 months. Makes about 30 macaroons.
Icebox Cookies (Cranberry or Pecan)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped dried cranberries or chopped pecans
In a medium bowl, use a wooden spoon to beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla. When mixture is smooth, add flour and salt; stir just until combined. Stir in dried cranberries or pecans. Divide dough into quarters.
On a sheet of cling wrap, shape each portion into a log about 1½ inches in diameter and 4 inches long. Wrap logs tightly. Chill 30 minutes or up to one day. (Dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen for up to two months.)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With a sharp knife, slice the dough into ¼-inch thick rounds. Rotate log as you cut to keep it from flattening. Place rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets, 1 inch apart.
Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges just begin to turn golden, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 weeks. Makes 50 cookies.
2 1/₃ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup molasses (not blackstrap molasses)
1 large egg
¼ cup candied ginger, minced (optional)
About ½ cup turbinado sugar (for rolling)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice. Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (if you have one) or a hand mixer and a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until it is smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat for about 2 minutes to blend, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat for an additional minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients and candied ginger, mixing until the flour and spices are blended thoroughly. Put the sugar in a small bowl. Use a small cookie scoop or about a tablespoon of dough, quickly roll into a ball, and dip the ball in the sugar. Place sugared cookies on two baking sheets lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies feel set to the touch. Remove from oven and cool on a rack to room temperature. Makes two dozen.
Flourless Dark Chocolate Brownies
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups 60 percent dark chocolate chips
4 large eggs
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter 8-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper or foil, and butter again or use baking spray. In a saucepan, heat butter, cocoa powder, and espresso powder, stirring to melt butter. Remove from heat and add 1½ cups of chocolate chips and vanilla, stirring until smooth.
Let cool for 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well so they absorb into the chocolate. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until blended and pour into prepared pan. Dot the top with the extra ½ cup of chocolate chips. Bake until the top has a sheen and is set about 20 minutes. Cool in the pan, chill, and cut with warm knife. Makes a dozen brownies.
Photo: Jenny Tremblay West