As many of you may or may not know, blogging is actually just my "Mornings/Nights/Weekends Job." During weekday business hours, I have a full-time job working in healthcare. Since my company is a non-profit, I have to be mindful of gift giving around the holidays (meaning, gifts of any significant monetary value are not really appropriate workplace gifts). In an effort to be mindful of these parameters, while still wanting to do something thoughtful for my colleagues during the holiday season, giving homemade baked goods as gifts to my colleagues has been the perfect solution.
Over the years I have baked an array of treats for my colleagues (Ina's Sour Cream Coffee Cake, My Rum Bundt Cake, Peppermint Bark, etc.). Last year I decided that it would be a nice gesture to give everyone a cookie sampler consisting of both Kentucky Bourbon Balls and Spritz Cookies wrapped in little cellophane treat bags. This ended up being a major hit with all of my friends/colleagues at work, so I have decided to repeat this popular cookie combination again this year. Below is a breakdown of how I go about making both of these cookies, along with a few baking tips and links to my favorite recipes.
A southern classic and honestly, a personal favorite. This is a no-bake cookie recipe with a "spirited" (aka slightly inebriating) kick! Of the various takes on how to make this confection, I have found this recipe from Food Network to be the best. It is easy to make and almost impossible to eat only one. A few notes to keep in mind when making these cookies-
- If you are making this recipe for a large group, I would suggest processing the pecans and vanilla wafers in bulk. Having these ingredients on hand and ready to go makes it really quick and easy to whip up a batch in a snap. Simply store at room temperature in gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bags.
- You can roll these bites in either confectioners sugar or granulated sugar. Personally, I am a fan of granulated sugar because I think it gives the cookies a nice crunch and is slightly less messy than using the confectioners sugar.
- The dough for this recipe should be moist in order to properly roll into bite-sized balls. If the dough appears to be dry, don't hesitate to rehydrate with splashes of bourbon or water (1 Tbs at a time).
- Rule of Thumb- Use a bourbon that is good enough to drink by itself. I suggest Wild Turkey.
- Since there is a certain amount of uncooked alcohol in this recipe, it goes without saying "Always Enjoy these Cookies Responsibly!"
The second cookie that has recently become a baking tradition during the holiday season in my house is the spritz cookie. The spritz cookie, at its core, is a butter cookie. I had originally gotten the idea to make these cookies after watching an old Martha Stewart Christmas episode, where she and her niece Sophie had made these cookies for the Yale Alley Cats (see this video).
I was so excited to finally have an opportunity to use the cookie press that my mom had given me and decided to make a full experience out of my first spritz cookie baking session. I prepped the Martha Stewart Basic Butter Cookie Dough Recipe, poured a glass of wine and turned on the Martha Stewart cookie episode to really get in the baking spirit. As I went to squeeze the dough out of the cookie press and onto the baking sheet, I was met with the most incredible resistance. I checked the press to make sure that there wasn't anything obstructing the disks (there wasn't) and proceeded to try again to press the cookies.
Long story short, I ended up sweaty and frustrated from the unsuccessful cookie press attempts. Naturally, I figured that my cookie press must be broken. My very sweet husband offered to run to the store to pick up a new cookie press in hopes of trying to salvage this cookie baking experience for me. Using the new cookie press and same dough, I was met with the same resistance. I finally realized that it was not the press that was the problem, but rather it was the dough (way too thick and not enough butter). So I rolled out Martha's dough recipe and made little gingerbread men shaped cookies dipped in chocolate and finished with crushed peppermint (definitely a lemonade from lemons moment).
After salvaging the first dough, I decided to go through the cookie press instruction manual to see if I had missed a key step. It was then that I saw the suggested cookie dough recipe for making spritz cookies (completely different ratios than the recipe Martha had used). I have it one last college try, made the OXO Spritz Cookie Dough and voila! Cookie perfection was finally achieved! Now while it could be that Martha's recipe works best with the cookie press featured in her Christmas episode with her niece Sophie, the best dough recipe for the OXO Cookie Press was the one they provided in the box. Lesson learned!
Spritz Cookie Baking Tips:
- Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature. The dough needs to be quite soft in order to push through the press with ease, so it is important to have all of your dairy ingredients at room temperature.
- I highly recommend using the spritz cookie recipe that comes with the OXO cookie press. The ratio of butter to flour was perfect and the cookies turned out beautifully.
- Decor- if you plan on decorating your spritz cookies with colored sugar, brush the tops of the unbaked cookies with either milk or an egg wash and then apply desired decorating sugars.