This past weekend I decorated my first tree, in my first house, just a few days after hosting my first Thanksgiving around my first official dining room table. Who knew that 35 had so many firsts?
To be fair, I decorated the tree at the insistence of my friend Suzonne who has much more reverence for tradition that I usually do, and thank goodness for it! Sometimes it takes a friend’s insistence to make things happen… (and she came over with her extra Christmas tree so that didn’t hurt one bit!).
Where I do have holiday tradition reverence is in the kitchen, where every winter I find myself making family recipes that make Christmas feel like Christmas no matter where I am. Sure, there’s my dad’s Sweet Potato Pie that I won’t stop yammering on about, or my mom’s Peanut Butter Balls that I crave each December, but this year I’m taking it back with a spiced sugar cookie with a candy center that I used to make when I was a kiddo. In my mind I might have made these cookies while trying to earn some sort of Girl Scout badge… that’s how far back these classic cookies date for me. I surely made them with my mom and sister, and this holiday season I’m all about the nostalgia, with a spiced flare.
Here’s how these cookies start:
This post is in partnership with Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening, which made these cookies tender on the inside and golden crisp along the edges. This is my family’s old-school cookie baking and I’m embracing the tradition.
Also gather brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, corn syrup for moisture and pliability, plenty of cardamom spice, flour and leavening.
Brown sugar and granulated sugar are creamed to combined with Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening and (baker’s tip!) cardamom spice.
Adding the spice to the shortening will help disperse the flavor throughout the cookie creating a fragrant and boldly spiced cookie. Much more flavorful than adding the spice along with the dry ingredients. I love the taste of cardamom, but you could use any sort of spice that feels like a holiday tradition to you: cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of cloves, allspice… do whatcha feel!
Once the sugar and spice are creamed with the shortening, add the eggs and beat until glossy and well combined.
The flour, salt, and leavening are added all at once.
And mixed until soft and well-combined.
The dough is soft and tender. It’s a little sticky to start which means it just needs some quality time in the refrigerator to chill and come together.
The dough is divided in half and each piece is wrapped in wax paper.
From here, a few things could happen:
• The dough can be placed in the refrigerator to chill for about 2 hours before rolling out and baking.
• The dough can be placed in the freezer for up to a month if you want to make holiday cookies closer to the Christmas holiday like no sweat… like you planned it all along because you did.
I roll these cookies our on a well-floured sheet of parchment paper.
We’re hoping for less mess and easy to work with cookie shapes.
The top of the chilled dough is floured and another piece of parchment is placed over it before rolling out to a 1/4-inch thickness.
Keeping the dough a good thickness will make the shapes easier to cut and remove from the parchment.
Thick, chilled cookie dough + well-floured cookie cutters + a parchment lined baking sheet ready to go.
I used smaller cookie cutters to create spaces in each cookie for the stained glass candy center.
The cookies are baked halfway to done, removed from the oven and sprinkled with crushed hard candy.
Back to the oven where the cookies will crisp to juuust golden and the candy will melt to glass.
It’s like magic and really very satisfying.
Boxed and shared. That’s how these cookies are best enjoyed… with just a few set aside for your own morning coffee.
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 cup Crisco® Butter-Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
- 1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- finely crushed hard fruit-flavored candies
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper. Set aside.
- Beat shortening, brown sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup, cardamom and nutmeg in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a medium bowl using electric hand beaters until well combined and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Beat in eggs on low speed, one at a time for 1 minute each, scraping the bottom of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract.
- Slowly mix in dry ingredients in two batches. Remove the bowl from the mixer and finish incorporating by hand using a spatula to ensure that all of the flour is incorporated.
- Divide dough into two disks, wrap each disk in plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hour or overnight is best.
- One at a time, roll each disk to a ¼-inch thickness between two sheets of well floured parchment paper. The bottom parchment will be floured, the cookie dough placed on top, lightly flour the top of the cookie dough and press another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough to roll.
- Use a 2 ½-inch holiday cookie cutter to cut shapes from the dough and place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a smaller cookie cutter to cut a decorative hole in the center of each cookie and remove from the baking sheet. It’s easiest to cut out all of the cookies and stack them on a small baking sheet or plate layered with parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before baking.
- Place oven racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake for 8 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown. Remove from the oven momentarily and sprinkle the hollow inside of each baking cookie with a heaping ½ teaspoon crushed candy. Return to the oven and bake for 4 minutes more until the cookies are lightly brown and the candy is melted.
- Allow to cool on the baking sheet completely before using a thin spatula to carefully remove to a cooling rack. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature before serving or gifting.
This post is in partnership with Crisco with photographs by Jon Melendez.