Christmas and Christmas festivities are hard to ignore, with the highly infectious festive spirit everywhere in the air. We went to a convent school where Christmas was celebrated every year, replete with skits, carols, the customary crib, prayers, sermons etc. This meant rehearsals for the carols and skits, our teachers racing through the 'portions' between these sessions and the approaching Christmas holidays. At that time, for me, the only reason to look forward to the season was the holidays. I am no singer or actor, there was not a lot I would look forward to. (Picture the studious student who yawns through these things, can we trade a Tintin for this puhleez!!!) But I remember practicing the carols a few times, guess they must have taken me as one terrible voice is easily drowned in a score melodious ones. Seniors and classmates would do their preparations and the rest of us would chat away the hot noons. Not of course without the serious Sisters chiding us for not maintaining 'pin-drop silence'. Well, now that I am still alive and kicking and how, I have indeed managed to survive all that, thankfully! And now the reason for me to look forward to this season is of course baking. Though we do not celebrate Christmas, the festival being almost synonymous to baking, its impossible not to bake more than usual. Thanks to internet and baking and food blogs, Christmas is virtually omnipresent!
Life has been pretty busy the past few days, with little sister's visit, a family function, guests, the kids' vacations and other routine things. I did have plans for the Christmas day post, like a lot of us. But it was not meant to be. I baked a Stollen Wreath, another Daring Bakers challenge. Everything worked like a charm till I kept the dough for the final rise in a warm place - my oven. And switched on the connecting indicator to check if there was power supply. Astonishingly forgot to turn it off. The moment I realized it, I pulled out the hot tin from the oven with bare hands, forgetting to grab a kitchen towel in utter haste and distress (!!). A yelp and a blistered finger. Hubby having breakfast at the nearby table, though aghast, made the right sounds. But I could read his mind - can anyone sane get a finger blistered like that - and for a bread??? Guess I must have muttered things about kicking myself, the tiny kitchen, the oven size...Heard someone say in hubby's voice ' Let's go and get your big oven'! A gal with a blistered finger deserves at least that ;-)
Baked two fruit cakes, they were alright, but nothing really to write home about. I baked another when power cut ruined my day (and my post!), surprisingly the cake still tasted very good. The stollen, in spite of the blunder, still was passable as toast. After mourning for the candied orange peel made painstakingly, the wasted precious flaked almonds, I did not have any more inclination to try more such bakes. Looking at the positive side, these almost-there bakes at least helped to make the blog look Christmassy, gracing my header!
So now, as a last shot at my Christmas post, I made these cookies over the weekend, with hubby at work and the kids holding the candy (meant for the cookies) ransom. At the end of my wits, I thought if this doesn't succeed, I will skip the post for this year. Thankfully, they turned out decent and I heaved a sigh of relief! A post for Christmas at last! I first read about stained glass window cookies in one of Annabel Karmel's books and had been wanting to try it out. These are cookies with a stained glass window effect, the windows of the cookies filled with crushed candy and baked. The melted candy looks translucent, making them pretty, edible decoration for the Christmas tree. The cookie dough could be your favorite sugar cookie dough, I have made these with whole wheat, a recipe from The King Arthur Whole Grain baking book - Thin And Crisp Whole Wheat Decorating cookies.
The cookies are indeed crisp and tasty, just about sweet and 100% whole wheat. I made some stained glass window cookies and some with sparkling sugar sprinkled over. Even with only half the recipe, they still warrant a bit of time and effort, before you finally call it a day. A good recipe you could use as a base for decorating or even otherwise. The book says they are sturdy, but mine turned out quite fragile, but surely not crumbly.
To make these cookies, you first make the dough, chill it to make it easier to handle, roll, cut into shapes. A small cut-out is made using a smaller cutter. The 'window' thus created, is filled with crushed candy and baked. A small hole is made in the cookie using a straw, this for threading in the satin ribbons. The cookies taste good, though the candy part doesn't. But certainly an idea to be tried at least once, for the fun of it. The dough recipe though, is one to be made again.
I have halved the recipe below. According to the book, this yields 6 1/2 dozen, 2 1/2 inch cookies.
Whole Wheat flour - 2 cups / 232 grams / 8 oz ( I used Ashirwad Atta)
Baking powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - 3/4 teaspoon
Butter, unsalted, soft at room temperature - 3/4 cup / 170 grams / 6 oz
Sugar - 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 6 1/4 oz (Measured and pulsed in the mixer)
Vanilla Extract - 2 teaspoons
Orange juice - 1/4 cup / 2 oz
Cookie cutters (Big ones and smaller ones to fit within the bigger one, still leave enough space around the cut-out, to make a hole without breaking the cookie)
Candies of different colors (I used Poppins)
Sparkling Sugar / Liquid or Gel Food Color if you wish to paint
Procedure: Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar in a medium sized bowl till light and fluffy. I used my hand mixer, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the orange juice, vanilla, beat again for about 30 seconds to mix well. Tip in the flour mixture. Fold in. You may need to use your hands to gather the dough. This will be quite soft, firms up on refrigeration. A tip from the book to avoid ragged edges as you roll the dough. Divide the dough into workable portions. Take a ball of dough, transfer to a lightly floured surface. Flatten the ball to about 1'' thick and roll it on its edge along the work surface (as though you were rolling a hoop on the street). Flatten dough again and roll along the edges again. Repeat till you get a round ball with smooth edges. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 F. Grease your baking sheets or line with baking parchment (I love parchment). Crush candies of one color and keep aside.
Work with one piece of dough at a time, keep the rest in the fridge till needed. Roll into a thin circle (about 3 mm thick). Cut using cookie cutters. Transfer to the baking sheet or parchment carefully. Use smaller cookie cutters to make the windows. Use a drinking straw to make the holes. Fill the window with crushed candy. Bake for 11-12 minutes or till brown around the edges. This will vary depending on the thickness of the rolled dough. A test batch will tell you the approximate baking time. Do not fill a lot of candy at one go as it may spill over the edges of the cut-out. If the candy doesn't fill the cut-out as it bakes, fill more carefully in between. If there are any gaps after baking, use a toothpick to move the melted candy to fill the gaps. You will need to do this immediately after baking or the candy will harden.
Remove the cookies, transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Hope you had a very Merry Christmas! Season's Greetings and Best Wishes!
These cookies go to my blog's 2nd Anniversary event, Cakes And More Cookie Fest. Do send in your entries to get a chance to win a copy of Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-The-Mouth Cookies.