Ask A Chicago Expert: Christmas Cookie Recipes

Ask A Chicago Expert: Christmas Cookie Recipes

Want it to feel a bit more like Christmas in your house? Then it’s time to turn on the oven and start baking. From warming up the kitchen to the smells of treats in the oven, Christmas cookies are a wonderful tradition, whether you’re sharing them at a party or making them for yourself. Here are both some classic and less-traditional cookies to try this year!

 delightfulpastries.com)

(Photo Credit: delightfulpastries.com)

Chef Dobra Bielinski
Delightful Pastries
5927 W. Lawrence Ave.
Chicago, IL 60630
(773) 545-7215
www.delightfulpastries.com

For authentic European pastries, visit this Jefferson Park bakery helmed by Chef Dobra Bielinski (or its locations in Old Town or the Chicago French Market). Dobra graduated from UIC and after falling in love with Paris and the city of lights’ pastry shops, she decided to enroll in the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. Her pastry and bakery shops all have a range of desserts, including cookies, breads, morning pastries, cakes and even some gluten-free options. The one thing they have in common? They’re all delicious and the perfect splurge.

Classic Shortbread Cookies

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 c flour
  • White sanding sugar (used for sprinkling)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is fluffy and light.
  3. In the mixer bowl, add the sugar and salt. Beat until well mixed.
  4. Next, add in the flour and mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Prepare either a 8” x 8” or 9″ x 9″ pan by spraying it with non-stick spray. If desired, line it with parchment.
  6. Turn the mixture out into the pan and smooth it into an even flat layer using the back of a spatula.
  7. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough cross-wise into 3 strips. Then make 8 cuts to create 9 sections for a total of 27 fingers.
  8. Using a toothpick, poke a bunch of random steam holes into each finger.
  9. Sprinkle the top of the uncooked cookie with the sanding sugar.
  10. Cover the cookie with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 20 minutes (or you can refrigerate overnight).
  11. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about an hour, until the center begins to feel kind of firm.
  12. After removing from the oven, re-cut on lines while it is still warm.
  13. Allow to cool fully in pan.

Grandma Bertha’s Apricot Delights (Make 24 cookies)

Pastry Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter, room temperature (so that it’s pliable, but not overly soft)
  • 3 oz. cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1 c all-purpose flour

Apricot-Raisin Filling Ingredients

  • 6 oz dried apricots
  • 6 Tbsp strawberry preserves
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c golden raisins

Cinnamon Pecan Topping Ingredients

  • 1/2 c toasted pecans
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 Tbsp melted butter, cooled, but not congealed

Directions:

  1. Start by making the pastry. Using a pastry blender, or two knives, cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour, but do not overwork it.
  2. Divide the pastry into three balls of equal size. Wrap each of the balls in plastic and flatten. Chill these for 2 hours.
  3. Next, begin to make the filling. To do this, over low heat, begin to heat up the apricots until they have “plumped” and absorbed a majority of the water.
  4. Blend the apricots in a food processor to create a paste; add preserves and pulse again until smooth.
  5. In the filling, add and stir in golden raisins. Set aside.
  6. Now it’s time for the topping. Using a food processor, pulse the pecans along with the sugar and cinnamon until the nuts are finely ground.
  7. Lastly, assemble the cookies. To do that, cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Next, work with a dough disk one at a time while you leave the others in the refrigerator.
  9. Roll out the disk on a floured pastry cloth (or several sheets of plastic wrap) until the circle is 10 inches in diameter. Cut into 8 wedges.
  10. Starting with the large end of the wedge, gently lift the edges. Place a teaspoon of the filling at the wide edge, fold the sides and then fold it back over to enclose the filling. Then gently roll it until you have a little swaddled dumpling. Place it on a plate with the point of the dough underneath. Repeat with all wedges.
  11. Chill the cookies. (Roll out each of the other disks in turn, cutting into wedges, filling and rolling.) When finished, dip each cookie in the melted butter and then in the sugar/nut mixture. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Related: Best Bakeries in Chicago

Mexican Wedding Cookies

  • 1 c (8 oz) butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 c toasted pecans/walnuts, finely ground
  • 1 c toasted pecans/walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 vanilla bean with the seeds scraped out
  • Powdered sugar (which will be used to coat the cookies)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla bean seeds until it’s light in color and creamy.
  3. Add all of the nuts to the mixture, and stir together.
  4. Add the flour, and stir everything again until it is all combined.
  5. Divide the dough into four equal pieces, then roll out each piece of dough until it is about 10 inches long.
  6. Score the log into 12 even pieces, and then cut the logs where you have scored them.
  7. Roll each piece of dough into a little ball.
  8. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and then bake the balls until they’re nice and light golden brown.
  9. Cool the cookies for a few minutes until they are warm.
  10. Next, roll the cookies in powdered sugar to your desired coating.
  11. There are two secrets to making this recipe really good. One, make sure the nuts are toasted and cooled before using so that they smell delicious. And two, bake the cookies completely through so it doesn’t taste like raw dough; the baking time should be about 16-20 minutes.

Related: Best Chocolate Cake in Chicago

Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she’s writing about a variety of topics for numerous websites and blogs, and working part-time at a culinary vacation company based in the Windy City. Some of her work can be found at Examiner.com.