Christmas cookies updated to reduce fat would bring a smile to elves' faces

December 12, 1993|By Nancy Baggett | Nancy Baggett,Eating Well Magazine United Feature Syndicate

As far back as I can remember, baking cookies has been a Christmas ritual in my family. My earliest recollections are of my mother, grandmother and aunt gathering in our farmhouse kitchen and culling prospects from the "Cookies" section of my grandmother's wooden receipt box.

Each of the frayed, spattered recipe cards under consideration was removed from the box and discussed at length. Eventually, the three women settled upon an assortment -- it always included sugar cookies, at least one chocolate cookie and often icebox pinwheel slices, meringue kisses and my grandmother's rich-as-sin "rocks" as well.

This baking ritual still occurs in my kitchen in the same leisurely, companionable fashion as in the past, although I no longer bake in such quantity, and I have tinkered with the recipes to greatly reduce their fat content.

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Chocolate meringue kisses

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

3 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder or granules

3 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (American style or Dutch process)

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup sifted confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Set racks in center and upper positions of oven; heat to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.

In a grease-free mixing bowl, combine egg whites and coffee powder; let stand for 5 minutes. Pulverize cocoa powder and chocolate in a food processor for about 30 seconds, or until chocolate is ground to a fine powder. Stir (do not process) confectioners' sugar and cornstarch into the chocolate-cocoa mixture until evenly incorporated, set aside.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg white mixture until frothy. Increase mixer speed to high and beat until soft peaks start to form.

Gradually add granulated sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated. Add vanilla. Beat until mixture is stiff and glossy, about 90 seconds. Fold in chocolate-cocoa mixture until evenly incorporated but not overmixed.

Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 -inch-diameter open-star tip and pipe kisses about 1 inch in diameter on the prepared baking sheets, spacing the kisses about 1 1/2 inches apart. (Alternatively, drop mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls.)

Bake the cookies for 14 to 18 minutes, switching the baking sheets halfway through; the cookies should be almost firm to the touch. (Bake all the cookies at once; the batter does not hold. For chewy cookies underbake slightly; for crispy, drier ones overbake slightly.)

Remove sheets to cooling racks and let the cookies stand for a minute or two. Then slide parchment from the baking sheet to a flat surface and let the cookies stand until completely cooled. Carefully peel the cookies from the parchment. (Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Freeze for longer storage.)

calories per cookie: 0 grams protein, 0 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrate; 4 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol.

*

Rolled iced spice cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

COOKIE DOUGH:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose white flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, preferably canola

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon skim milk

2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 drops pure almond extract

GLOSSY ICING:

1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

colored sugar for decorating cookies (optional)

To make cookies: In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat sugar, butter and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in corn syrup, egg white, milk, vanilla, lemon zest and almond extract until thoroughly mixed. Beat in about half the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Stir in remaining dry ingredients.

Divide the dough in half. Place one half of the dough on a sheet of wax paper; flatten it slightly. Cover with a second sheet of wax paper. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to an even 1/8 -inch thickness, inverting occasionally, smoothing out any wrinkles that form in paper. With the wax paper still attached, transfer the dough to a baking sheet. Repeat the rolling process with remaining dough.

Freeze dough, cookie sheets and all, for at least 1 hour and for up to 24 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil baking sheets or coat with non stick cooking spray. Carefully peel off one sheet of paper from a dough portion and replace it. (Leave second portion in freezer.) Lay dough, loosened sheet down, on a flat work surface. Peel off second sheet and discard. Stamp out cookies with favorite cookie cutters. If dough is too firm to cut out, let stand a few minutes until softened just slightly.

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