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Last-Minute Cookies

One basic dough recipe with four yummy variations.

I love making Christmas cookies; the more varieties and the more beautifully decorated, the better. But not everyone has the time or desire to do that, or perhaps there's an emergency cookie call.

You don't have to buy grocery store cookies, though. Here are some ideas for a last minute crisis, the "'I have to bring cookies to school tomorrow!'" or "'Suzie is sick and can't come to the potluck tonight. Can you make the cookies?'"

These cookies all begin with refrigerated cookie dough. It's not a bad idea to keep a couple tubes in the freezer, just in case. A single tube will make 2-3 dozen cookies.  These cookies don't keep well, so freeze them if they aren't going to be eaten within 24 hours. 

Base ingredients:

1 16-18 oz. tube of sugar cookie dough

2 oz cream cheese (not fat-free)

½ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup all purpose flour

Bring the cookie dough and cream cheese to room temperature and place in mixing bowl. If you're really short on time, mix the dough and cream cheese with an electric mixer to soften.   

Sift powdered sugar and flour over the dough. If you don't have a sifter, use a fine mesh colander. It's much easier to prevent those pesky little balls of powdered sugar getting into the bowl than it is to eradicate them once they're in the dough.

Mix together with an electric mixer. If you are planning to make two kinds of cookies, place half the dough into a separate bowl. If you're going to make three kinds of cookies, divide the dough in thirds and place each third in a separate bowl. 

Rummage around your pantry to discover possibilities that will make your cookies interesting: nuts, chips, dried fruit, flavorings, etc. They can be as basic as mini chocolate chips and chopped nuts or be creative. Then add the fun ingredients to make your cookies special.   

For all recipes: If you have time, after mixing dough with add-ins, place dough in fridge for 20 minutes or in the freezer for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place cookies two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. For even browning, use a cookie sheet with no sides. If you only have cookie sheets with sides, turn the cookie sheet over and use the bottom. 

Here are potential add-ins for a half tube of cookie dough:

Peppermint Patties

½ teaspoon peppermint extract

2 tablespoons crushed candy canes or starlight mints

6 oz chocolate chips or bars, mint or plain — melted (optional)

Mix extract, crushed candies and dough together in bowl with fork. With wet hands, roll dough into 10-12 balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until just barely golden. 

If you have time, after baking and cooling, dip half of cookie in melted chocolate, sprinkle crushed candies on top, place on rack to dry.

Jam Thumbprints

½ teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons almonds, very finely chopped

3 tablespoons raspberry or other favorite jam, seedless

Mix extract, almonds, and dough together in a bowl with fork. With wet hands, roll dough into 10-12 balls and place on cookie sheet. With a wet finger, make an indentation in the middle of each cookie. Fill with ½ teaspoon jam. Place cookies in freezer or fridge for 10 minutes. Bake 12-14 minutes.

Orange Cranberry-Pistachio

½ teaspoon orange extract, orange oil, or fresh grated orange peel

½ cup shelled pistachios, chopped

1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Mix extract, nuts, fruits and dough together in bowl with fork. With wet hands, roll dough into 10-12 balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake 11-13 minutes.

Cinnamon In 'ems 

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons sugar or sanding sugar or colored sugar

Mix extract, spices and dough together in bowl with fork. With wet hands, roll dough into 10-12 balls, roll in sugar, and place on cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until just barely golden. 

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