Yes, it’s that time of year folks. Time to start packin’ it away. Chow down. Get yourself stuffed to the gills. And what better way to do it than with butter and sugar and a few other goodies? Ahhh, Christmas cookies. It really doesn’t feel like Christmas until I get to cooking some cookies. It’s best to bake Christmas cookies in one’s pajamas (or cozies as they’re known as in this casa). I believe it adds to the feeling of festiveness and, let’s face it, elastic waists can only be a good thing when baking is involved!
This is one of three cookies that were traditional Christmas cookies in my house growing up (the other two are an Eagle Brand coconut cookie and a classic spritz cookie – coming, coming, don’t worry!). Peppermint pockets were by far the most work and the most “fancy” – I’ve never really had anything like these. They’re devastatingly good — and I’m not really a peppermint person per se (say that five times fast!). You’ve got a lovely crumbly texture to the cookie and then once you get to the middle, you hit the creamy, peppermint gooey jackpot. I also love a cookie that if you accidentally exhale while biting into it, you end up like Woody Allen in that famous scene in Annie Hall.
Age-inappropriate Annie Hall references aside, this is a fun recipe to make with your kiddies – having four kids in five years pretty much ensured my mom had a nice little assembly line going in the kitchen, particularly at holiday time. You can make the bigger cookie part and little hands are perfect for rolling and flattening the tops. If you’ve got a few other kids lying around, one can do the filling and the other can handle the post-bake roll in the crushed peppermint sugar. So, get the assembly line set up and get to it!
Try not to freak out about all the sugar. It seems insane, but if you add it all up, it’s only 1-1/4 cups. And you probably won’t use all the filling or the coating*, so deduct 1/2 cup when pondering this. There. Not so bad.
If you want to go organic and corn syrup-free with the peppermint candies, try these.
The red food coloring is optional and also hilarious. Doesn’t its inclusion just make this such an old-school recipe? You know, before we knew about all the things that can kill us? Anyway, you can substitute beet juice, if you have some lying around or just skip it.
* Because you will end up eating a lot of the dough. But try not to eat it all. You will get sick. I ate a few cookies’ worth and felt ever so slightly ill, but didn’t regret it for a second. Is that wrong? No? Okay, good.
1 cup/227 g butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 – 3 cups flour, sifted
Cream the butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix until well blended. Slowly add the flour at low speed (if using a mixer), incorporating it into the dough before adding more. I ended up only using 2-1/2 cups of flour, and the dough was pretty crumbly. Next time, I’ll probably use a bit less. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate while preparing the other components.
1/2 cup hard peppermint candy, crushed
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Mix the crushed candy and confectioner’s sugar together and set aside.
FYI, I recommend using a food processor for this, as my attempt at using a wine bottle over a dish towel with the candy in a ziploc bag WHILE the child was napping, mind you, was a bust. But try to not to grind it up too finely (as I did); you want some bits in there.
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon milk
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons reserved candy coating
1 drop red food coloring (optional)
In a small bowl with a wooden spoon, blend the cream cheese with the milk. Gradually mix in the sugar, the reserved candy mixture and the food coloring (if using).
Using a rounded teaspoon’s worth, roll the dough into balls and flatten slightly onto an ungreased cookie sheet. They may be somewhat crumbly and crack here and there; just try to keep the basic shape and don’t worry too much about perfection (I know it’s hard). With your thumb, make a deep hole in the center of the cookie (don’t go through the bottom, though, please) and fill with about a 1/2 teaspoon of filling. Flatten a small piece of the cookie dough in your palm and place that over the hole and press down to seal the edges.
Bake for 12-15 minutes. While still hot, roll each cookie in the crushed candy mixture.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies (or 1 dozen if you (and your husband/partner in crime — I didn’t do this alone!) eat sickening amounts of the cookie dough).