Let’s Talk Food: Holiday goodies to leave for Santa

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Whipped shortbread cookies.

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON White chocolate toffee.

It is time to bake some goodies to leave for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

Did you know that this tradition began in the 1930s during the Great Depression as it was thought that parents wanted to teach their children to share with others even if they did not have much themselves. Perhaps during these difficult times of the pandemic and financial strains, the need to share with others is as important as it was during the Great Depression.

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Santa would love these cookies that I saw on Facebook, called whipped shortbread cookies. They are melt-in-your-mouth goodness! It will not make him too full so he can continue to eat cookies and treats from other homes.

Whipped Shortbread Cookies

Makes: 4 dozen cookies

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Cream until light and fluffy in bowl of stand mixer:

3 cups, or 24 ounces (6 sticks), unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered or confectioners sugar

Add:

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used gluten free flour.)

1 1/2 cups cornstarch

Mix to combine. Using a 2 tablespoon-sized ice cream scoop, place cookies, spaced at least 1 inch apart, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Using a fork dipped in cornstarch, smash down to 1-inch thickness. Sprinkle with colored sugar or Christmas sprinkles.

Place in oven for 22-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

•••

Maybe Santa would rather have candy instead of a cookie.

Ina Garten claims this recipe for toffee is so easy that you don’t need a candy thermometer but instead just cook until a deep caramel color is achieved.

White Chocolate Toffee

Makes: 25-30 pieces

2 sticks unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pan

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon kosher salt

12 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped

1/2 cup salted, roasted cashews

1/2 cup salted, roasted pistachios

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, 1/4 inch diced (3 ounces)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Fleur de sel

Generously grease a 9-x-12-inch metal pan with butter, making sure all the sides and corners are greased. Combine the butter, sugar, vanilla and kosher salt in a medium 10- to 11-inch pot or Dutch oven. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Continue cooking for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the mixture turns a pale golden color. Continue to cook, stirring constantly until the mixture turns a deep caramel color.

Then immediately pour the mixture into a prepared pan, tilting the pan to distribute it evenly. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes, then use a paring knife to score lines in a large irregular serving piece. Allow the toffee to cool for 5 minutes, then retrace the lines you drew with the paring knife.

Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Pour the chocolate over the toffee, using a spatula to spread it evenly. Immediately sprinkle on the cashews, pistachios, ginger and cranberries so they’re evenly distributed.

Sprinkle with fleur de sel and set aside at room temperature for at least 2 hours until the chocolate is completely set. Break into pieces along the scored lines and serve at room temperature.

•••

Santa might rather have a spicy treat such as gingerbread cookies instead.

Gingerbread Cookies

Makes: 7 dozen cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

5 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and salt. Whisk together to combine.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg until incorporated, then gradually beat in the molasses. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix again for a few seconds. On low speed, gradually beat in the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently a few times. Divide into four equal pieces and flatten each piece into a 6-inch disk. Cover each piece at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out one piece of dough 1/8-inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Using a long, wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes.

Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Re-roll all the dough scraps and cut out more cookies.

Royal Icing

Makes: 2 cups

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat at high speed until fluffy, thick and shiny, about 3 minutes.

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Place in pastry bag with No. 3 tip for borders.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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