No surprise that many of us who love to bake find time on the tight side as we count down to Dec. 25.
Making Christmas cookies takes time, commitment, equipment and a bit of skill.
If you're looking for shortcuts, here are two fun and easy things to do.
Make a melty snowman
First step here is to bake your favorite plain cookie, whether it's homemade or a mix. Then let it cool.
It's what's on top that counts here. Topping the cooled cookies with the following:
1 pound vanilla-flavored candy coating, coarsely chopped
20 bite-size chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped
Brown and orange sprinkles or other candies and/or tinted frosting
Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Place cooled cookies on prepared baking sheet. In a medium microwave-safe bowl microwave candy coating on 50 percent power for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Spoon melted coating over each cookie to cover cookie and resemble melted snow. While coating is still tacky, add a peanut butter cup for a top hat and decorate with sprinkles or other candies to resemble snowman faces (If using frosting to make snowman faces, add it when the candy coating is dry.) Let stand until set.
A beauty of a mess
Here is an amazingly fun and funny way to make cookies, appearance be darned!
Allen Pierleoni, a writer for The Sacramento Bee, came up with this idea for the novice baker, he said.
"There's an easier way for the cookie-confused, one that purists scoff at -- until they taste the end product," he wrote. "Essentially, we're going to doctor a tube of Pillsbury chocolate-chip cookies into unrecognizability."
You'll need the cookie dough and bags of dried cherries, pecan halves and semisweet chocolate morsels. For a "gourmet" touch, find some pine nuts.
Here's what to do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the dough and lay the tube on the surface of a nonstick baking pan; be sure the dough is very cold. Ignore the Pillsbury directions that say, "Spoon dough by rounded teaspoons two inches apart ..." We want clunky, politically incorrect cookies, so we need to break the rules.
2. So, using a blunt knife (so the nonstick surface isn't damaged), cut the roll into 1/2-inch-thick coins. Place them around the cookie sheet. They're big and awkward and will take up most of the sheet, but that's OK -- we want them to melt into each other and stick together, so that when they cool we'll need to break them off at the "seams." Why? For aesthetics, of course. We don't want our cookies in only one size and shape, or confused with ones that take actual skill.
3. Now the fun part: Take a few cherries, pecans, chocolate morsels and pine nuts and mash them into the dough. How's it looking? Need another pecan over there? What about more cherries on that one? Does that one have enough chocolate? You get the idea.
4. Put the cookies in the oven and ignore the timing instructions on the Pillsbury label. Let's bake 'em for 20 minutes and add 2 or 3 or 4 minutes, depending on how they look. We want them dark and crunchy, with slightly burnt edges and a tinge of char on the nuts and cherries.
Remove the cookies from the oven. They smell and look pretty darn good, don't they?
While the cookies cool, put a quart of milk and your favorite glass into the freezer. You know what comes next.