Basic Holiday Butter Cookies (& 15 Variations) Recipe 
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Basic Holiday Butter Cookies (& 15 Variations)

BASIC RECIPE:
1/4 cup Vegetable shortening Plus 1 teaspoon./divided
3/4 cup Unsalted butter -- softened
2 cups Sugar
4 Egg yolks
1 tablespoon Pure vanilla
1/3 cup Light cream
5 cups Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Cornstarch
4 teaspoons Baking powder

Preheat to 350F. Grease 2 sheets with 1/2 tsp. each of shortening. If desired, line sheets with parchment paper, but do not grease. In lg bowl, beat together butter and remaining 1/4 cup shortening till color is even. Add sugar and beat till fluffy, 3-5 min. In small bowl beat together yolks, vanilla and light cream. Slowly pour into butter mix. Continue beating till egg mix is thoroughly incorporated.

In separate lg bowl sift together flour, salt, starch and baking powder. Fold flour mix gently into butter mix in 3 additions, beating each addition till incorporated. Scrape down mix occasionally. Place 4 sheets of plastic wrap on work surface. Place 1/4 of dough on each sheet of plastic. Form each clump of dough into a disk and wrap in plastic.

To Bake: Cut, form or shape 1 disk of dough into 24 cookies, according to individual directions below. Place on prepared sheets. Bake 15-20 minutes, depending on size and shape. (See individual instructions below.) Remove cookies from oven and immediately transfer cookies to rack. Each variation makes about 2 doz. When completely cooled, store in tins or freeze, wrapped in freezer wrap or freezer plastic. Can be frozen 8-12 month.

VARIATIONS:

1. CUT-OUTS: On floured surface, roll chilled dough to 1/4" thick. Flour cookies cutters and cut. Lift with metal spatula onto prepared sheets. Decorate before or after baking. For a vibrant food paint, mix 1 egg yolks with 1 tsp. water. Divide egg mix into 4-6 small bowls or a muffin pan. Use only a small amount of food color in each. Paste coloring will result in more intense colors than liquid food coloring. Use food paint brushes or cotton swabs to paint cookies. Colors intensify during baking. Or decorate after baking by piping frosting onto cooled cookies. The number of cookies will vary depending on size and shape of cutters. Egg-based paints should be used ONLY before baking.

2. SPRITZ: If desired, beat or fold in food color into dough. Fill cookie press, gun or pastry bag. Use die or tip as desired. Follow manufacturer's directions. Makes about 35 using 1 dough disk.

3. CHOCOLATE CARAMEL MARBLES: Melt and cool 4 oz of chocolate. Knead chocolate into 1 dough disk, just enough to achieve marbled look. Cut 6 caramels into quarters. Form a 3/4" ball of chocolate marble dough around each caramel quarter. Place on baking sheet. Chill 20 min. Bake 15 min. Makes 24.

4. MACAROON WREATHS: Tint 1 disk of dough and 2 cup of coconut with green food coloring. Mix dough with 1 cup of green coconut. Roll into 24 tubes about 5" long. Join ends to form a wreath. Brush with egg white. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup coconut. Dab a tiny amount of egg white on wreath and place 5 red cinnamon candies on each wreath. Bake 15 min till slightly golden. Makes 24.

5. DRIED CHERRY AND ALMOND BISCOTTI: Plump 1/2 cup dried cherries in boiling water for 5 min, then drain. Into 1 disk dough, knead in 1 tsp. almond extract, drained dried cherries and 1/3 cup slivered almonds. Roll into 10" cylinder. Place on foil-lined sheet. Bake 30-40 min. Remove from oven, lift foil to cooling rack, cool 30 min. Slice cooled cylinder into 1/2" thick pieces on a diagonal. Bake 8-10 min on each side. Makes 20.

6. PEANUT CHOCOLATE CHIPS Using 1 disk of dough, knead in 1/3 cup peanuts and 1 cup chocolate chips. Drop about 2 tbsp. of dough at a time onto sheets. Bake 15 min. Makes 24.

7. & 8. CHRISTMAS PEPPERMINT STARS & MARBLE STARS: Use 2 dough disks. In food processor, pulverize 16 red & white peppermints. In 1 disk of dough, knead in crushed mints & red food coloring. Roll into 10 x 15 rectangle. Set aside. On floured plastic wrap, roll second disk into 10 x 15 rectangle. Invert the plain dough on top of the peppermint dough. Cut stars with floured cookie cutters & place on prepared sheet. Brush with egg white & sprinkle with green sugar. For MARBLE STARS: Reroll scraps, enough to stick together, but keeping a marble effect. Cut stars & bake. Makes about 48.

9. KISS COOKIE HATS: Form 1 disk of dough into 24 1" balls. Place each ball in greased and floured mini-muffin tin. Bake 15 min or till balls start to brown. Remove from oven and immediately place & press an unwrapped chocolate kiss in center of each. Let stand 2 min. Carefully remove from muffin tin and place on rack. Makes 24.

10. CONFETTI ROUNDS: Roll 1 dish of dough into 8" cylinder. On piece of plastic wrap, sprinkle about 2 ounces on confetti sprinkles, nuts, candies or other coating the length of the cylinder. Roll cylinder in coating. Roll cylinder back and forth till outside is completely coated. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Remove from fridge, slice into 1/4" slices. Bake about 15 min. Makes about 32.

11. MADELEINES: Sprinkle 1 disk with 1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest and 1/2 tsp. lemon extract. Knead dough till zest and extract are evenly combined. Press dough into greased Madeleine pans, about 3/4 full. Bake 16 min. Makes 20.

12. CHOCOLATE TOFFEE CRUNCH BARS: Press 1 disk into bottom of 9" square prepared pan. Bake 15-20 min. Cool at least 20 min. Melt 24 oz of chocolate. Pour about half the chocolate over the baked and cooled crust. Sprinkle with 10 oz of toffee bits. Pour remaining half of melted chocolate over. Garnish with holiday bits (candy coated, semisweet, chocolate balls). Set aside till chocolate firms. Makes 16

13. ALMOND VENETIANS: Add 1 cup ground almonds or other ground nuts and 1/2 tsp. almond extract or appropriate extract to 1 disk dough. Knead dough till evenly combined. Press into molded cookie pan, about 3/4 full. Any shallow cookie mold will work. Bake 12 min. If desired, cooled cookie can be dipped in chocolate or sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. Makes 24.

14. PIZZELLES: Knead 3/4 tsp. lemon, almond or anise extract into 1 disk of dough. Roll dough into 1/2" balls. Place in hot Pizzelle iron. Follow manufacturer's directions. When golden, remove from iron and cool on a rack. Makes 24.

15 & 16. FRUIT PINWHEELS & NUT PINWHEELS: On piece of floured plastic wrap, roll 1 disk of dough to 8 x 14 rectangle. Spread 12 oz fruit or nut filling on rectangle. Gently roll the rectangle using the wrap to support the weight of the dough. Chill at least 2 hrs. Slice into 1/4" pinwheels and place on greased parchment or foil. Leave plenty of space between cookies. They will spread. Bake 18-20 min. When removing from oven, lift parchment or foil off sheet onto rack. When cooled, peel foil or parchment from cookies. Makes 28

 




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