Holiday surprises all wrapped up in dough

The Christmas season is a magical time, full of wonder and surprise. We’re surprised by gifts all wrapped in pretty paper, waking up to fresh snowfall on the trees, and the transformation of our homes from everyday to festive. And sometimes we can be surprised by a cookie.

Imagine biting into your (my) favorite buttery powdered sugar-covered wedding cookie and finding a chocolate kiss center. These cookies are so delicious I recommend baking a double batch. They’ll go fast.

Another is a chocolate-dipped wonder that looks inviting on its own but holds a secret that everyone will adore. It seems that the rich little cookie hides a maraschino cherry center — and who doesn’t love a chocolate-covered cherry?

For those who prefer good old-fashioned flavor, nothing beats a simple brown sugar and cinnamon drop cookie. These moist cake-like treats are made even more special with a hidden filling of chewy dates and nuts. Another surprise is that they are so easy to make.

Secret Kiss Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 (8-ounce) package milk chocolate kisses

1 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided

2 T. baking cocoa

Directions: In large bowl, with electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Gradually add flour. Fold in walnuts. Refrigerate dough 2 to 3 hours or until firm.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Flatten balls and place a chocolate kiss in the center of each. Pinch dough together around kiss, covering kiss completely. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake in preheated 375-degree oven 12 minutes or till set but not browned. Cool 1 minute; remove from baking sheets to wire racks.

Sift together 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar and cocoa. While cookies are still warm, roll half of the cookies in cocoa mixture and half in confectioners’ sugar. Cool completely. Store in airtight container. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Holiday Surprise Cookies

Cookies:

2/3 cup butter flavor shortening

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 T. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

48 maraschino cherries, well drained on paper towels

Dipping Chocolate:

1 cup white or dark melting chocolate (or both), cut in small pieces

2 T. butter-flavored shortening.

Directions: For cookies, cream shortening, sugar, egg, milk and vanilla in large bowl at medium speed of electric mixer till well blended. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Beat mixture into the creamed mixture at low speed.

Press dough in thin layer around cherries. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 1 minute; remove to cooling rack. Cool completely.

For dipping chocolate: Melt chocolate with shortening in small saucepan over low heat or in measuring cup in microwave on 50% power; stir. Drop one cookie at a time into melted chocolate. Use fork to turn, covering cookie completely in chocolate. (If chocolate becomes too firm, microwave on low to reheat.) Lift cookie out of chocolate on fork, allowing excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheet.

Before chocolate sets, if desired, sprinkle top with jimmies or chopped nuts. Chill in refrigerator to set chocolate. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Date-Filled Cookies

Dough:

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 cups packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

3 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup milk

Filling:

2 cups pitted dates

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Directions: Prepare date filling by combining dates, sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook slowly over medium heat till thickened. Stir in nuts if using. Cool completely.

For dough, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and blend thoroughly. Stir in remaining ingredients. Mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. With a spoon, make a well in each mound of dough. Place a teaspoonful of date filling in well and cover filling with another small portion of cookie dough. Bake in 375-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.

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