It’s Cookie Time

Of all the traditional baked confections we associate with the holidays, probably none is more popular than the cookie. During the holiday season, old recipes are pulled out — or special orders are placed — for a staggering and beautiful array of cookies in all sizes, shapes, colors and flavors. America is a melting pot, and there is no time when this is more evident than the holidays. Cookies from around the world make appearances at family celebrations or as gifts for friends and neighbors.

If you follow the cookie trail in the United States, it will take you back to Colonial times, when the first record of a recipe for a “Christmas Cookey” can be found. The ingredients listed in the American Cookery recipe of 1797 note flour, sugar, butter, milk, powdered coriander and “pearlash,” a leavening agent made by soaking fireplace ashes in water to produce lye. It was a jumping off point to what has become a long-held and much-loved tradition.

Cookies were brought to our country by the Europeans who settled here. Christmas cookie trees were a German invention. Highly decorative shortbread or sugar cookies were a gift from the Dutch. As America grew, so did her immigrant population. Today, the cookies we bake during the holidays reflect not only our own family traditions, but those of a vast culinary history from all over the globe.

Looking even further back to the origins of the cookie, we can start with a basic recipe for a sugar cookie or tea cake. Many other cookies recipes from around the world have evolved from these simple ingredients.

It is believed that hundreds of years ago, sugar cookies originated with the process of testing a cake recipe. Small spoonfuls of batter were baked to check for flavor and consistency. Shortbread cookies began life in ancient times as slightly sweetened biscuits. From there — with the additions of butter, fruits and chocolate, sprinkles and colored sugar — things went wild. Modern cookies are an unlimited variety of textures and flavors from bacon to candy corn.

Try this recipe for Three-in-One Drop Cookie Dough, which uses the basic recipe for sugar cookies to create three different flavors: Sweet Citrus, Oatmeal Raisin and Chocolate Chip. You can make 45 cookies (15 of each flavor) using the simple, delicious ingredients below. Happy holidays!

THREE-IN-ONE DROP COOKIE DOUGH

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

For Sweet Citrus Cookies:

Zest of 1/2 lemon

Zest of 1/2 lime

Zest of 1/2 orange

1/4 cup sugar for sprinkling on top

For Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies:

1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons rolled oats

1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons raisins

For Chocolate Chip Cookies:

3/4 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

2. Line three baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of mixer (or using a bowl and a handmixer), set on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy — approximately 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla extract and continue to mix one minute. Add flour, baking soda and salt, and continue to mix until well-combined.

4. Divide the dough into three equal parts in three separate mixing bowls. Add the flavoring ingredients: the citrus zest in one bowl, reserving the sugar to sprinkle on top; the oatmeal and raisins in the second bowl; and the chocolate chips in the last bowl. Mix the ingredients in each bowl with a rubber spatula until well-combined.

5. Spoon teaspoon-sized drops onto the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the Sweet Citrus cookies with the sugar.

6. Bake each batch of cookies for 5 minutes, and rotate/turn the pan to bake the cookies evenly. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown and are slightly soft in the center. Let cool at room temperature. Makes 45 cookies (one batch of dough, 15 of each flavor).

 By Angela Shelf Medearis and Gina Harlow

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis