Christmas confections


Angels and other heavenly treats to sweeten your holiday.


Flourless Chocolate Cookies

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Pinch salt

2 3/4 cups walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

4 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Place racks in the upper and bottom thirds of the oven and heat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Combine the cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, salt and walnuts in the bowl of a stand mixer (with paddle attachment if available). Beat on low speed 1 minute.

With the mixer running, slowly add the egg whites and vanilla extract. Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly and looks lumpy. Do not overmix.

Use a 2-ounce cookie scoop or a generous tablespoon to scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Scoop 5 cookies onto each sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart so they don’t stick when they spread. If you have extra batter, wait until the first batch of cookies is baked before scooping the next batch.

Transfer the baking sheets to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 320 degrees. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom about halfway through. Small, thin cracks will appear on the surface of the cookies. Pull the parchment paper with the cookies onto a wire cooling rack, and cool completely before removing from the paper. Makes 10 to 12 cookies.

Source: Adapted by the Washington Post from “One Sweet Cookie: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes” by Tracey Zabar (Rizzoli, 2011).

Per cookie: 320 calories, 6 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 18 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 30 g sugar.


Crispy Toffee Cookies

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped

Pinch salt

1 1/4 cups flour, plus more for the work surface

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

7 ounces crushed hard toffee candy bars, such as Heath or Skor

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Beat the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the almonds, salt, flour, baking powder and toffee bits. Beat in the egg.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a log about 3 inches in diameter and 10 inches long. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

Heat the oven to 440 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Use a sharp knife to slice the log of dough into 1/2-inch rounds. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are light brown, rotating the sheet front to back about halfway through baking.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container. Makes about 20 cookies.

Source: Adapted by The Washington Post from “Swedish Desserts,” by Cecilia Vikbladh (Skyhorse, 2012).

Per cookie: 170 calories, 3 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat) 25 mg cholesterol, 65 mg sodium, 0 fiber, 12 g sugar.


Meringue Angels

Besides the recipe ingredients, you’ll need a stand mixer (preferably with a whisk attachment), 1 or 2 disposable pastry bags (or large self-sealing plastic food bags, cutting off one bottom corner), the wing template (see photo), parchment paper, a rolling pin and a 1-inch round cutter (for the halos).

A word of caution: If you don’t achieve a firm meringue mixture, it’s best to start over. The meringue pieces need to dry in the oven overnight before assembly. Allow at least 30 minutes and up to 1 or 2 hours for the royal icing to set on the assembled angels. The angels can last for 3 to 4 weeks; they will get harder over time.

6 large egg whites

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for assembly

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup cornstarch

Royal icing (see directions below)

Red and blue paste food coloring (such as Wilton brand)

3 yellow gumdrops

Beat the egg whites and lemon juice with an electric mixer on medium speed until the whites form soft peaks. Begin sprinkling on the cup of granulated sugar very gradually, no more than a tablespoon at a time, to form fairly firm peaks. Do not rush this process.

Reduce the mixer speed to low; alternately add tablespoons of the confectioners’ sugar and the cornstarch, increasing the mixer speed as needed so each addition is well incorporated. This will take several minutes and should produce a smooth, glossy meringue that is quite firm and holds a shape well.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Heat the oven to 250 degrees.

Scoop the meringue into a pastry bag that has about a 1/4-inch opening (no tip is needed). Don’t fill the bag more than half full.

To make the angels’ wings, place the template under the parchment paper. Pipe out the meringue to trace and fill in the outline. Make extra wings, in case of breakage.

To make the heads, hold the pastry bag perpendicular to the baking sheet and pipe out 3 balls as round as possible (they will flatten on the bottom), spacing them at least an inch apart.

Cut a slightly larger opening (1/2 inch to 3/4 inch) at the end of the same pastry bag. For the angels’ bodies, hold the pastry bag just above the sheet; squeeze slowly until the base is as large as you want it, then start raising the bag slowly to create a rounded, cone-shaped body. The base might be 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide, with the bodies about 3 1/2 inches tall.

Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meringues are cream-colored and crisp on top when tapped. They may develop cracks; that is OK. Turn off the oven; let the meringues cool and dry out overnight on the baking sheets.

To assemble, working with one angel at a time, use firm royal icing to attach the wings to the body.

Dab a drop or two of the red and the blue food coloring on a plate. Use a clean, thin brush or the blunt end of a toothpick to paint mouths and eyes on the heads.

Spread the remaining tablespoon of granulated sugar on a small plate. Cut a horizontal slice from the bottom of a gumdrop, dip it into the sugar and use a rolling pin to roll it out into a larger, thin circle. Dip it in the sugar again and cut out a round circle for the halo.

Pipe a large bead of royal icing on top of the body to attach the head. Then gently pipe a small bead on the head to attach the halo. Repeat assembly for the remaining angels. Makes 3 or 4 angels.

Royal icing: Whisk 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pasteurized egg white (from 1 large egg) in a medium bowl together with 1/4 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extracts and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. Add water in very small increments to create a thick, sticky glue.

Note: Ingredients are too varied for nutritional analysis.

Source: Adapted by The Washington Post from Josh Short, pastry chef at the Hay-Adams Hotel.


Russian Mint Cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 large egg, slightly beaten

3 cups flour, plus more for your hands

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

For the glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract

Food coloring (optional)

2 to 4 tablespoons milk

Combine the sugar, 1/2 cup water and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes, remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the peppermint extract and egg.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 baking sheets with oil spray.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the cooled syrup mixture. (The dough will be very sticky.) Use your floured hands to roll teaspoons of dough into 1-inch balls. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to flatten the balls slightly.

Bake 7 to 10 minutes, just until the cookies are slightly golden and the tops have cracked a little.

While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze: Combine the confectioners’ sugar, peppermint extract, food coloring and enough milk to create a thin, creamy glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cookies while they’re still on the baking sheets. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Makes about 50 cookies.

Source: Adapted by The Washington Post from “The Joy of Cookies,” by Sharon Tyler Herbst (Barron’s, 1987).

Per cookie: 60 calories, 0 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 0 saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, 0 fiber, 7 g sugar.

Washington Post Service

A bevy of angels makes an adorable Christmas centerpiece — and a fun school-holiday project with children. Even if you’ve never made meringue, our directions will make it easy. Gumdrop haloes and garlands of edible glitter complete the angels’ look. And when the holidays are over, you can eat them.

If you’d rather not wait, we have three out-of-the-ordinary cookie recipes to consider:

• Flourless Chocolate Cookies: They come from renowned French pastry chef Francois Payard, who says: “Their crackled surfaces give them an elegant look, and because they are so easy and take barely any time to make, are great for last-minute entertaining.”

• Russian Mint Cookies: Sweet and slightly chewy, they’re meant to accompany a samovar of hot tea, but would go just as nicely with a mug of hot chocolate.

• Crispy Toffee Cookies: A buttery dough enfolds bits of almonds and crushed toffee candies in this easy Swedish ice-box cookie.

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