Monday, December 17, 2012

It isn't Christmas without Cookies!

It's that time of year again...time to dig out all of my cookies cutters, baking sheets, cooling racks and large crock bowls to mix up several batches of Christmas cookies!

I like to bake, but as my children have grown older, I do it less and less (fewer class parties and lazy weekends with nothing to do).  While I may mix up a small batch of cookies once in a while, the Christmas season brings on a flurry of baking.  This year, my daughter and future daughter-in-law joined me in the kitchen to help.

Today, I'm going to share a treasured family recipe that has become our favorite -- Grandma Coerver's German Chocolate Cookies. 

Grandma Hilda Coerver
When I was a child, my Grandma Coerver would come and stay with us for a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving.  Walking into the house after school was heavenly -- she had been baking, and the house smelled delicious!  Her German chocolate cookies were the best.  The recipe is a little labor-intensive, but it's worth it!  Here goes!
They don't look 'magazine worthy,' but they taste amazing!
Grandma Coerver's German Chocolate Cookies
1 cup of butter (no substitutes), softened
2 cups white sugar
6 ounces Baker's German (Sweet) Chocolate - this comes in a 4 ounce box in the baking section
2 large eggs*, fork beaten
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Put butter in a large bowl.  Allow it to come to room temperature, or microwave it for 20 seconds to soften.  Add sugar, and cream together using a spoon until well blended. 
Finely grate the chocolate into the bowl.  Stir well to incorporate the chocolate into the butter mixture.  Break two eggs into a separate bowl and beat with a fork for a minute or two.  Add to the butter mixture and stir well. [*A note about eggs.  Size does matter...if you use 'medium' eggs, start with less flour (2 3/4 cups); if you use 'extra large' eggs, you may need to add more flour (4 cups or more) to create a stiff dough.]   
On a piece of waxed paper or in a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.  Add to the butter mixture, and stir well to form a ball of dough.  The mixture may be somewhat may need to finish blending the dry ingredients by hand to create the dough ball.  When all of the flour is incorporated and a ball of dough is formed, cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours or more.      
After dough has chilled, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or spray cookie sheets.  Sprinkle a little flour on the countertop.  Take about 1/3 of the dough from the bowl, and flatten it a bit with your hands.  Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness, sprinkling more flour on the underside of the dough to keep it from stitcking to the countertop, if needed.  Cut dough with cookie cutters, and transfer to the greased baking sheets.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until edges of cookies just start to turn brown.  Remove the cookie sheet and let cool on a wire rack.  Continue with remaining dough, chilling the scraps of dough if needed.  Frost and decorate cookies as desired.  Makes 4+ dozen, depending on the size of your cutters.   
It took me a few years to figure out a technique that makes cutting out the cookies go a bit faster.  After I roll out the dough, I arrange ALL of my cutters on the dough, nestling them up against each other, before I press down.  This lets me 'cut to advantage' -- it creates fewer scraps, and speeds things along.  
 I have amassed a large collection of cookie cutters, but this easily would work with three or four.
You could frost the cookies with store-bought icing, but if you'd like to make your own, here is the Wilton buttercream frosting recipe:
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons of milk (or water)
1 cup butter (or hard Crisco)
1 pound powdered sugar (about 4-5 cups)
1 Tablespoon of meringue powder (optional)
Put vanilla, milk and butter in a mixing bowl, and mix on medium-low speed until blended.  Slowly add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating on medium-high speed, until you reach the desired spreading consistency (at least four cups of suger, more if you desire a stiffer frosting), scraping bowl occasionally.  Beat another minute until smooth and creamy. 
I have other, old family cookie recipes that I make every year, and some newer ones that have become favorites of my kids and husband, and I'm sure many of you have as well.  I encourage you to get your hands dirty an make up at least one batch of home-made goodness this year!

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