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Baking for Christmas

December 12, 2010

We baked up a storm today! We went shopping this morning and picked up all of the ingredients we needed for 3 kinds of cookies, 2 kinds of candy and cheese straws.  Becky’s mom came over to help out and while the Jaguars played in the background we got things started. 

The first batch were Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies.  While these cooled on the platter we started a batch of Blackberry Thumprints. Both of these recipes came from the December 2010 edition of Southern Living and were delicious. 

Becky and he mom made Oreo Balls and chocolate dipped pretzels.  The Oreo Balls are very good and we first had them when Amber brought some over after Jules was born.  After rolling them into little balls Becky put them in the freezer to set before dipping them in white chocolate. 

The last 2 things we made were a double batch of Italian white cookies (Pastine Bianche) and cheese straws.  The recipe for the cheese straws came out of the December 2010 issue of Garden and Gun.  We made the dough as directed but it was too dry to roll out.  We added a little water to bind it together and were able to roll it out. 

The cheese straws turned out great! They had a great cheddar flavor and a nice little spicy bite.  We are going to freeze them and serve them on Christmas Eve with the rest of the spread we have planned. 

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

– 1 cup creamy peanut butter
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1 large egg
– 1/2 tsp. baking soda
– 1/4 tsp. sale
– 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Stir together peanut butter and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl until well blended. Stir in chocolate morsels.
  • Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
  • Bake for 12-14 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned.  Cool on baking sheets on a wire rack 5 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks, and let cool 15 minutes.
  • Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Blackberry Thumbprints

– 1/2 cup silvered almonds
– 1 cup butter softened
– 1 cup powdered sugar
– 2 cups all purpose flour
– 1/4 tsp. salt
– 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
– 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
– 1/2 cup seedless blackberry preserves


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan 6 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.  Cool completely (about 20 minutes). Reduce over temperature to 325 degrees F.
  • Process almonds in a food processor 30 seconds or until finely ground.
  • Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer (I used a hand mixer) until creamy.  Gradually add 1 cup powdered sugar, beating well.
  • Combine flour, next 3 ingredients, and almonds, gradually add butter mixture, beating until well blended.
  • Shape dough into 3/4 inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Press thumb into each ball, forming an indentation. 
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on a baking sheet 2 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and cool 30 minutes.
  • Spoon a small amount of blackberry preserves when cooled.

Oreo Balls

– Package of Oreo cookies
– 8 oz package of cream cheese
– White chocolate chips or white chocolate almond bark


  • Crush the Oreo cookies in a food processor.
  • Add the cream cheese and mix well.
  • Roll into 1 inch balls and place on baking sheet, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • In medium saucepan melt white chocolate/almond bark.  Dip balls into:chocolate, allow to harden in refrigerator. 

Italian Cookies (Pastine Bianche)

– 1 cup sugar
– 2 eggs
– 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
– 3 teaspoons baking powder
– 3 cups all purpose flour
– 1/2 cup milk
– 1 tablespoon lemon or anise extract (I prefer anise)


  • Beat eggs in a large bowl and gradually add in sugar.
  • Once eggs and sugar are combined, add oil and extract.
  • In a separate bowl mix the baking powder and flour.
  • Gradually add dry ingredients (about 1/3 at a time) and milk (about a 1/3 at a time) into wet ingredients.
  • Once blended, flour hands and roll into balls, if mixture is too wet, add a little flour.
  • Place balls on aluminum foil lined baking sheet.
  • Bake at 375 degrees F for 7-10 minutes (until cookies begin to rise but not crack).
  • Cool on rack. Once cooled, glaze with icing made from milk and powdered sugar. Top with nonpareils.

Cheese Straws

– 1 cup all-purpose flour (Noyes prefers White Lily)
– 1/2 stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter, slightly softened
– 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1/4 lb. shredded sharp orange cheddar cheese
– 1/4 lb. shredded white cheese (equal parts Gruyère and Parmigiano Reggiano)
– 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
– 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
– 1 egg yolk
– Enough water to bind it together

For garnish:
– 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
– Sea salt


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, add all ingredients except rosemary and sea salt. Pulse repeatedly until the dough becomes soft and starts to gather into a ball.
  • On a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle approximately 11 inches wide by 8 inches tall; the dough should be 1/4 inch thick. Fold the dough in half (left side onto right side) and re-roll; continue this for several layers (this adds flakiness). Finally, re-roll the dough to 11 inches wide by 8 inches tall.
  • With a spatula, carefully lift the dough onto an ungreased baking sheet with the longer, 11-inch side at the top and bottom. Square off all sides with a knife to create clean edges, and cut the dough into vertical strips, each a bit less than 1/2  inch wide. Then cut each strip in half horizontally, creating approximately 40 cheese straws. With the knife, gently move the straws to separate. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and sea salt.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until just slightly golden. Cool briefly, then move to a rack until cooled.
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