A festive, colorful cookie for Christmas cookie plates, quick to make, easy to enjoy. The recipe uses less-expensive and lower-calorie fresh cranberries, spiked with orange essence and pecans.
Many of us are celebrating Christmas frugally this year. We are “making the list, checking it twice” to save a few dollars here, more dollars there.
So a favorite food magazine’s frugal (ahem) entertaining ideas caught my attention. Granted, the article was titled "Luxury for Less" – but still, it suggested we substitute American caviar for Russian beluga and truffle oil for scrapings of fresh truffles. “We get it,” the story opened. And they do, if luxury is a necessity. But luxury is luxury – and luxury not a necessity.
Me, I’m baking less this year, an accommodation to fewer cookie monsters within cookie-grabbing distance, and with less-expensive ingredients, in nod to life-strapped budgets.
But baking at all? It’s a luxury.
It’s a luxury to collect fresh cranberries and butter and sugar in my warm kitchen as Christmas carols waft in from the other room. It’s a luxury to put out cups of tea and a plate of fresh cookies and have loved ones reach out to enjoy them.
I feel rich beyond words.
This recipe goes way-way back to cookie swaps hosted by my dear friend Lisa (who much to my delight, now has the great blog My Own Sweet Thyme!) when we both lived in Dallas. I haven’t made the recipe in years but was attracted to the easy ingredient list, the use of less-expensive fresh cranberries versus dried cranberries, getting five dozen (and since then, even seven dozen) cookies from a single stick of butter – and most especially, the festive color! It’s going to be my contribution to my own cookie swap on Saturday.
So many Christmas cookie recipes seem to require chilling the dough before rolling or baking. This one – hooray, another hat-tip to simplicity – actually works better if the cookies are baked immediately after mixing the dough. If the dough rests, the cranberry begins to stain the dough, resulting in a slightly muddy color, although no change in flavor.
"... pretty and delicious!" ~ Lisa
"... absolutely wonderful!" ~ Laura
FRESH CRANBERRY DROP COOKIES
Time to table: 90 minutes
Makes 5 to 7 dozen small cookies two- to three-bites big
- 1/2 cup (1 stick/4oz/112g) salted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) sugar
- 3/4 cup (150g) brown sugar
- 1/4 cup milk (see TIPS)
- 2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
- 1 large egg
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 375g
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup (4oz/112g) toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups (6oz/170g) fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped in a food processor
Heat oven to 375F/190C.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugars until it's the consistency of wet sand, scraping the bowl and beaters once or twice. Beat in the milk, orange juice concentrate and egg until well combined.
Separately, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then blend well into the butter mixture.
With a wooden spoon, stir in the pecans and cranberries.
With a small cookie scoop, scoop out dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment; the cookies don't spread but do leave some space between them for "breathing room".
Bake for about 15 minutes for light-colored cake-like cookies, slightly longer for golden chewy cookies. Let cool for 5 minutes, remove from baking sheet to continue cooling.
ALANNA's TIPS Skim milk works fine, so does buttermilk. The original recipe called for two tablespoons of orange juice. But I like to use orange juice concentrate, it bumps up the orange essence considerably. Once I added the zest of an orange too. This added to the orange-y-ness but is optional, for sure. Here's a quick way to toast pecans. Just put them in the oven while it preheats, as soon as you can smell the pecans, pull them out! If you have access to black walnuts, they're wonderful in these cookies! Do chop the pecans by hand so they don't turn to mush. But even a mini food processor works for chopping the fresh cranberries. The original recipe suggested greasing the cookie sheets. The dough’s sugar content is quite high so something underneath is a good idea. I've successfully used parchment (my favorite), a silicone mat and a good-quality non-stick baking sheet. No cookie scoop? No problem. Just use two spoons (one to scoop and one to scrape) to drop the dough onto the baking sheet. The cookies will be be slightly more rustic in appearance but the taste won't suffer. It's also possible to roll the dough into balls with your fingers although please, do know that the dough is quite sticky.
Whole Recipe: 4543 Calories; 172g Tot Fat; 68g Sat Fat; 456mg Cholesterol; 2770mg Sodium; 687g Carb; 26g Fiber; 374g Sugar; 61g Protein.
Per Cookie, assuming 84 or 60 cookies: 54/75 Calories; 2/3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 5/7mg Cholesterol; 32/46mg Sodium; 8/11g Carb; 0g Fiber; 4/6g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS 1/1.5 Old Points & 1/2 PointsPlus
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