Battle of the Christmas Cookies

Sona1

*Special thanks to my mother who let me do all this baking back at home and who helped me through all of it.

Christmas is all about receiving gifts, spending time with your family, and most importantly: gaining a lot of weight. In order to contribute to the weight gaining, I decided to bake a lot of cookies for my family this year. Obviously, I want to make a good impression on them (or: I want to pretend like I’m Nigella) so I decided to try out some recipes beforehand. I tried a total of 3 recipes, compared them, ate them, rated them, and had them eaten and rated by the editorial board in order to decide on what would be the perfect type of cookies to bake this Christmas.

Disclaimer: if you are planning on actually baking one of these cookies, I advise you to stick to the instructions given in the original recipes and work off of them since they are original™ and complete. Unless you are a daredevil. In that case, use mine. All judgements but the Writer’s Block ratings are my opinions, feel free to disagree. I will allow you.

Recipe 1: Funfetti Shortbread Bites
Difficulty: fairly easy (hard to fuck up)
Mess meter: solid four out of ten
Writer’s Block rating: 2/7

I decided to start off this video with the easiest recipe. All you need for these cookies are:

  • 80 grams of salted butter
  • 70 grams of granulated sugar
  • ½ tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 140 grams of all-purpose flour
  • 30 grams of sprinkles

I took this recipe from cookingclassy.com in case someone wants to exactly replicate it. The original yield is about 335 cookies (bitesize, of course). I made some adaptations, keeping in mind that I still have more recipes to tackle. The yield of the recipe above is around 100. My mother prepared the baking dish for me, while I made the dough. Like I said, this was the easiest recipe, so it didn’t take me long to get it all right. It’s true that mixing butter and sugar together can be a hustle. It takes a while until it is all combined. I started with a bowl that was a bit too big, so I recommend you use a medium to small bowl when mixing these two together. And be sure that it’s deep, because you don’t really want butter to fly around. The original recipe also said to use almond extract, but let’s be honest, vanilla is a lot better. Once you add flour the dough starts to crumble, which you shouldn’t worry about. It will combine into one whole. Trust me, it will. Up until now, everything had gone by fairly smoothly. I got my dough, I added in the sprinkles and I flattened out the dough in the baking dish. Keep in mind that, when you decide to adapt the recipe, your amount of dough will decrease as well. My baking dish was too big, that’s what I’m trying to say. You will get some (minor) things wrong, which shouldn’t discourage you. Look at them as teaching moments. It will be fine. As long as you don’t burn your cookies, you’ll be fine.

Back to the shortbread bites. Keep in mind that your hands, if you use them to knead the dough, will end up smelling like the dough. In this case, they will have a strong vanilla smell with a hint of cookie. Basically the smell of a bakery on your hands. If you like to taste (or just eat) raw dough, this one doesn’t taste too great. Be careful not to get salmonella, though. I can confirm that salmonella is not a myth. It exists, and it hurts. I also recommend you to cut your nails short if you really want to dig in, unless you like to risk breaking one. I, for one, am someone who always has long nails and doesn’t think about it until it’s too late. That’s how I ended up breaking my pinky nail when making dumplings, but that’s a story for another time. I recommend chilling the dough for half an hour, and starting to preheat the oven once the dough has been refrigerated for 20 minutes. Preheat to around 180 degrees Celsius.

Now you’re probably wondering: how is everything going by so smoothly? Well, fear not, things went downwards once I got the dough out of the fridge. First, I couldn’t get the dough out of the baking dish. I cut it up inside the dish. Taking out the little bites was also quite complicated, because some of them wouldn’t come off the parchment paper. I also had to pick them up one by one, which was quite tedious. Imagine having to pick up 300 cookies one by one. That’s what I would call a workout! I managed to fit all the cookies on one baking tray. The recipe states that you shouldn’t use parchment paper or butter the tray, it just has to be a room-temperature tray. That’s what I did. Since there is no baking powder in the dough, the cookies won’t expand or rise too much. They won’t turn brown or anything, so be careful with that. I set a timer for 10 minutes. By this time, a nice smell was filling up in the house. After tasting one, I felt like they weren’t quite done yet, so I gave them a couple more minutes. I ended up taking them out after 17 minutes

They crumble when you take them immediately out of the oven, so you have to be patient and wait for them to cool. Since mine were very small, I decided not to transfer them onto another baking sheet. I can also confirm that you can trust the recipe: you will Sona2 be fine without parchment paper or butter on the baking sheet. If you like sprinkles: use a lot. I didn’t use enough, so my cookies were looking a bit … sad. It’s also quite hard to cut up dough in perfect squares. At least I find it hard. My cookies weren’t that pretty, but they did taste great. I like crunchy cookies, so these were perfect. If you want to have as much cookies as the pictures on the website, then I recommend you stick to the original measurements.

Do these taste good? These bites taste amazing, could not stop eating. Not good for your health. You will gain weight.
Would I bake these again? Yes.
Would I bake these to impress my family this Christmas? I might.

Recipe 2: Chocolate Snowflakes (or Trees)
Difficulty: not too hard, but don’t underestimate the work
Mess meter: seven out of ten
Writer’s Block rating: 1/7

Again, I made some adaptations. The original recipe yields about 75 cookies. Mine will give you 45:

  • 288 grams of flour
  • 42 grams of cocoa
  • 12 grams of ground cinnamon
  • 4 grams of salt
  • 227 grams of melted butter
  • 125 grams of sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ tablespoon of vanilla extract

This recipe is from CountryLiving.com. At first glance, it didn’t look too complicated. It was after I had bought the ingredients when I noticed that the dough needs to rest for at least 4 hours in the fridge, which shows how thorough I am when picking recipes. I did this one on my own, actually. Because I’m a grown up and I can handle baking cookies. Sort of. Anyways, like Jamie Oliver says, preparation is key. Get everything measured, grab your bowl, check if your mixer works, and start baking.

The original recipe states that you need one of those fancy expensive mixing machines that every television chef owns. A small hand-mixer was all I had. First start with sifting the dry ingredients. Be gentle, you don’t want the whole house to turn white. There is a reason to why it should only snow outside. Also: be careful with the cocoa. You can go overboard with cocoa really quickly, which will make your cookies have a very bitter taste. Just don’t forget to be careful when mixing all the dry ingredients. And use a big bowl for this one, there are a lot of dry ingredients.

The butter is a whole different story. I consider myself an amateur baker and if you do as well, you will know. I learned from the first recipe and used a smaller bowl. That helped a bit, but it didn’t make things that much easier. Creaming butter will always be one of the most difficult and tiresome things to do. Same goes for incorporating all the sugar. Be warned twice. I just really don’t like creaming butter. Splash in the vanilla extract. I always eyeball it (give this video a thumbs up if you do the same). The eggs make it all easier. I thought things would go kind of smoothly again, since I hadn’t made any big mistakes yet, but boy it was coming.

Remember those baking scenes from movies or fan fiction in which a couple decides it’s a good idea to do some baking and they end up making a mess out of the whole kitchen? That’s what happened next. Remember: dry ingredients are dangerous. Add in the dry ingredients bit by bit to minimize a mess. My mixing bowl wasn’t big, as I said. My mixing machine was small. I am small. At some point, I was almost done with adding all the dry ingredients. My hand slipped and boom, the mixer made a lot of the dough fly around. If my mother had been downstairs, she would have had a heart attack. It was that bad. So, what did we learn? Use a bowl that is big enough and be careful, or your kitchen will turn into something that might or might not resemble a chocolate pigsty.

I ended up kneading the dough a bit by hand after that. I like to touch my dough when working with it. Makes things a bit more personal, and makes it easier to add more love into it. Using your hands also makes it easier to break a nail, but someone had mercy on me and allowed me to keep all my nails from breaking. This dough doesn’t give you cookiehands. Your hands will smell O.K., and barely any dough will stick to them. Coming back to tasting raw dough: this one was my favorite. Am I weird for tasting dough raw? Please tell me I’m not. I put the dough in a bowl once I was done playing, and put the bowl in the fridge for 4 hours.

What’s next, what’s next? Yes, cutting up the dough. Preheat the oven to 176 degrees Celsius. Once you take the dough out of the fridge it will be firm and you will need to do some pre kneading before you start rolling. Don’t forget to put flour on your hands and working surface to keep the dough from sticking to everything. That’s what I liked with this dough. It was so easy to work with. Not sticky at all, not too hard once warmed up. Cutting out the trees went by smoothly as well. A+ for flexibility, dough. For this recipe, you do need to put some parchment paper on your baking sheet. Bake the cookies for about 11 minutes. Flip once they’ve been in the oven for 6 minutes. Don’t forget to cool them on a rack once done. For decoration purposes, I stuck a small candy ball on the dough before baking them to give them a little touch.

I admit: these cookies might be the best option to bake if you know that you will run short on time during Christmas prep. You can make the dough the night before and clean up, which is very convenient. These cookies, however, aren’t crunchy. Like I said, I like Sona3 my cookies with a crunch. If you don’t mind too much, then these are perfect for you. If you want more chocolate, I’m pretty sure you can mix some chunks in the dough.

Do these taste good? I think they are fair, I enjoy them. I do miss the crunch.
Would I bake these again? Not sure. Maybe in a few years.
Would I bake these to impress my family? They might not be worth the mess or hustle. Or four hours resting time.

Recipe 3: White Chocolate Dipper Ginger Cookies (or just Ginger Cookies)
Difficulty: prepare yourself to cry
Mess meter: high nine out of ten
Writer’s Block rating: 4/7

So here we are, the last recipe. My weekend has been busy. Did I mention that I got a tragus piercing in-between baking cookies? Well I’ve mentioned it now. This recipe definitely needs the most ingredients:

  • 288 grams of flour
  • 1 pack of baking powder
  • 4 grams of salt
  • 20 grams of ground ginger
  • 10 grams of ground cinnamon
  • 3 grams of ground cloves
  • 3 grams of ground nutmeg
  • 170 grams of butter, softened
  • 100 grams of sugar
  • 110 grams of light brown sugar
  • 85 grams of molasses
  • ½ tablespoon of vanilla extract

Now let me tell you something. I like ginger cookies. Store-bought ginger cookies. I found out that baking them yourself is really hard. If you can manage to do this perfectly, then you can crown yourself master-baker. I, for one, slightly failed at these. Even though I love the taste of ginger cookies, I hate ginger. I also can’t stand cloves or nutmeg, so it was a real adventure to make these. I can still smell all the spices.

 

I’m warning you right now: I will be complaining about the smell of these a lot. I actually almost felt like I was high on all the spices at some point. My mind is still foggy and will probably stay foggy for the next few days. It all started when I mixed all the dry ingredients. No, let’s rewind. It all started when I added in the ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. The smell of these spices was killing me. I was praying (as an atheist) for them to taste better than they were smelling. I managed to get through. If you, just like me, can’t stand these spices, I highly recommend you not to attempt baking these. Just buy them. Or use something to block your sense of smell. Maybe bake them when you have a cold. An interesting fact: ginger is really helpful when you have a cold. Let’s all thank Rachel for that fact.

 

The danger with these cookies is getting the amount of spice wrong. Go overboard and your cookies will taste like the biryani you eat when you order Indian. My mother actually knows how to cook biryani and she joked around about the number of spices I was using. “The only thing missing to get all-spice is black pepper”, is literally what she said. I don’t blame her; she was quite right. The previous recipe taught me to be extra alert when doing all the butter stuff, so this time I prevented the walls from being smeared with dough. That doesn’t mean that there was no big mess, though. There is still a big mess. In my nose.

Let me skip through all the mixing and complaining and chilling. I think you’ve read enough about that by now. The chilled dough, that’s where we are. I made these immediately following the Chocolate Trees, so the oven was still hot and the cooling rack was still packed with calories. My baking sheets were also still very hot and I had just spilled some salt on the counter. I was prepared to finally break a nail or burn my hand again, but neither happened. I’m telling you this as a warning (and a jinx maybe).

This dough was sticky. I didn’t like it at all. I was not able to properly bond with this dough. I also didn’t try tasting this one, because my nose was screaming at me to hurry. I don’t know whether it would have been better if I had kept it in the fridge longer. Probably not. I was going to make snow angels out of these, but the dough wasn’t cooperating. I rolled the dough into quite big disks, forgetting the fact that there is baking powder in there. Your dough will expand. Be careful and make small disks. Unless you want to make one big cookie, then please, make big disks. Cover the whole sheet. Why stop there, pack the whole oven. Go big or don’t bake.

For some reason, these cookies just wouldn’t cook. Maybe because they were too big, who knows. I made the second batch a lot smaller, which worked out. Because I messed up at first, I can’t tell you how many cookies you will actually be able to make with this recipe. Could be 20, could be 200. Nobody knows. As a reference: I made 12 big disks and 14 small ones. Once the cookies were done, which might have been after 25 minutes, I let them cool down. I think this is also where I should say this: your whole house will smell like spices. I was dying. It was torture. The other cookies smelled great, but I could not stand the smell of these. If you like the smell, you will feel like you’re in heaven. The same goes for pumpkin spice lattes. You hate them or you love them. I hate them.

My mother came in at this point and slightly saved the appearance of the cookies by cutting out little angels from the baked disks. That worked. They were looking really cute after that. If you want to be fancy, you could dip them in white chocolate after this. I was completely done with my baking marathon, so I didn’t bother doing that. You, however, are free to do whatever you want with them. As for the taste: too spiced, but strangely addicting. Crunchy. I didn’t use the right measurements. They ended up slightly bitter, and my dad even thought they were spicy (as in hot). I didn’t mind too much, but I do prefer the store bought ones. Especially the IKEA ones. Sweden knows. Sona4

Do these taste good? Don’t get me wrong, they don’t taste bad. I just put in too many spices. Someone who actually knows how to bake would nail them. But that’s me. The board really liked them, so something must have been good about them.

Would I bake these again? I might try again, but at my own place. While blocking my nose.
Would I bake these to impress my family? Since my brother and parents didn’t like them, unfortunately no.

The results
So, which recipe won? I think that I have to go with the Funfetti Shortbread Bites. My parents didn’t like the Ginger Cookies, nor did my little brother. I saved some of the bites, and he actually ended up stealing some of those because he really liked them. The bites are crunchy, easy to bake, and very addictive. You don’t need too many ingredients, the kitchen doesn’t turn into a bad rom-com scene, and your nose won’t feel like it’s under attack. What about impressing my family? Well they won’t know whether I’ve spent 30 minutes or 5 hours in the kitchen, right?

This, however, is based on whether my family would like them or not. I personally really liked the ginger cookies. They had even more crunch than the bites, and a big cookie is a good cookie. I have to say that the chocolate trees were my least favorite for sure. I’m just not a big fan of chocolate cookies that aren’t crunchy. That’s what makes a cookie for me, crunch. How many times did I write down crunchy in this? Let me tell you: way too many. Or 10. All three of these cookies are perfectly fine for Christmas. You could even make baking them a Christmas activity! Fun. In two days I will be munching away on these cookies, but what about you? Will you join me? Let me know!

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