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Oct 15, 2010 11:21 PM

Not your average Christmas Cookie.

Christmas is coming and friends and I have already been sorting through last year's recipes. Every year I buy the magazines and try out a few new cookies, all in search of a great cookie to add to my "best of" collection. But a lot of recipes out there are just simple spins on classic cookies. I suppose this is fun but if I am going to really do some serious baking, I want something more special than just peanut butter flowers and jam thumbprints.

Any great recipes out these? Unusual ones that surprise people with how delicious they are? Fresh flavor combinations or colorful cookies that stand out on a plate? Cookies that you get requests for? Even simple tried and true ones that perhaps I had a bad recipe for?

This is one of my favorites:

Mazurkas (Poland)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup unsalted butter, soft, but still cool
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 teaspoons sugar
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
1/2 cup dried dates, quartered
1/4 cup dried cherries, each halved
1/4 cup dark or golden raisins
3 tablespoons candied orange peel, diced
1/2 cup raw peeled pistachios
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with butter or nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

For the cookie: Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl, with an electric mixer, at medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add the egg and vanilla extract. Beat well, and then scrape down the sides.

While mixing on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 batches. Scrape down the bowl between each addition, and mix until just blended.

Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake until light golden brown with spots of darker golden brown and darker edges, about 30 minutes. Cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the fruit: Whisk the cornstarch and sugar together in a small saucepan. Whisk in orange juice until mixture dissolves. Stir in the fruits and candied orange peel. Bring to a simmer over medium, stirring often; continue to cook, stirring until thickened into a compote, about 3 minutes more. You should be able to draw the spoon along the bottom of pan and see the pan with no liquid seeping back. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the nuts and lemon zest.

Spread fruit evenly over the top of the cooled crust.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake mazurkas until golden brown around edges and fruit sets but is still slightly glossy and jewel-like, about 10 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.

Cut, using an oiled knife, into 24 bars. Serve.

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  1. I make a buttered rum sandwich cookie that isn't exactly a Christmas cookie, but I consider it more of a special occasion cookie because it's a bit time consuming to make. They are delicate and have a light rum flavor. I usually double the filling recipe because it's a pain to run out of filling partway through and I like to have a lot of filling in the cookies. I have a set of linzer cookie cutters I use to make them, using using one solid cookie and one cutout cookie for each sandwich.

    5 Replies
    1. re: gmm

      These I will be adding to Christmas cookies this year, thanks for the tip on doubling the icing...I have to drown my linzer tarts in jelly before my husband gives final approval. They seem similar but think I will make both anyway.

      1. re: coll

        I made these and they are officially in the rotation. And you were so right about doubling the filling. They actually taste as much of almonds as rum, someone even asked me if I was mistaken and they were Amaretto cookies.

        1. re: coll

          Glad you liked them. I'm not an alcohol drinker, but I do like rum in baking. I wonder if a gold rum, rather than a light rum, would make for a stronger rum flavor? I had a friend who loved these cookies so much she would give one or two to her husband, and hide the rest for herself.

          1. re: gmm

            I used Jamaican dark rum because that's what I use for everything rum related. I was contemplating Capt Morgan spiced and may experiment next time.

            1. re: gmm

              I'm not a drinker of alcohol either. I used my rum extract one day not long ago in a quick bread where I thought it sounded good. To me the flavor sounded like it should be spot on. Served it for dessert after dinner and our son said "eeeuuu.... Mom did you put alcohol in this ? I just looked at him, he knows I don't drink. It's rum extract! He said next time leave it out, I can't eat this mom, ok I said.

              These cookies sound like warm heaven though.

      2. I usually have 3 or 4 standbys for Christmas cookies, then a few rotating recipes of new things I want to try.

        Italian fudge filled cookies dropped off the rotation a few years ago, but they were one of my favorites. The diamond shape makes them look special and the combination of melted chocolate, chips, and walnuts in the filling is really nice.

        Mini chocolate chip filled meringues are a non-negotiable -- I would not be forgiven if I dropped these off. (The recipe doesn't call for mini chips, but with a delicate meringue, I think they work better.

        Last year, I made chocolate chip espresso shortbread cookies. I liked them just fine, but my family went nuts for them. They provide a nice alternative to super sweet cookies seen at Christmas. I think they've been all over food blogs, but i used the recipe here:

        1. Those sound absolutely delicious! That is my kind of cookie, and I'll definitely try them this Christmas.

          I usually make these mini mincemeat pies for my cookie tray, even though they are a total pain, because they're delicious:

          I also make Mexican wedding cookies, but sometimes add freshly ground cardamom to them so they're a little different.

          The only unusual cookie I make is lemon meltaways because no one expects lemon cookies at Christmas time, but everyone loves them:

          Rather than spreading the frosting on top, though, I use a plastic bag and pipe it onto each cookie. It looks prettier and is actually easier and less messy.

          1. My family has been making the 1962 Pillsbury Grand Prize winner "Candy Bar Cookies" for as many years as I can remember. It's a sweet shortbread cookie, topped with a gooey caramel/pecan mixture, topped with chocolate, and finally topped off with a single whole pecan. Very elegant looking. A little time consuming, but well worth it! They only get made at Christmas which is why they have remained so special for all of these years!!!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Phoebe

              This post took me back - my mother made these Candy Bar Cookies for my birthday one year when I was 9 or 10, as a treat for me to take to school. She made just enough for each kid to have one, and stored them in our neighbor's chest freezer for a couple of days before the big day. When my birthday finally arrived, imagine her surprise when she got the cookies to school and was about 10 cookies short! Apparently, our neighbor forgot to inform HER kids that those cookies weren't to be eaten, and her eldest son had been sneaking them for days. LOL. They really are tasty, though, and my classmates loved them even though they each only got a half cookie!

                1. re: biondanonima

                  Love your story. Your the first person I've come across that actually knows about these cookies. My Mom made them for years but found them too labor intensive in recent years, so I've taken over to keep the family tradition going on. I'm always asked why I don't "market" them? Simple, it's not my recipe. I still have the original, very browned copy of the recipe that first appeared in the Parade section of the newspaper in Feb. 1962. Will be making them again this year for Christmas.

                2. re: Phoebe

                  I have that cookbook!
                  I collect old cookbooks and I'm working on getting the rest of the Grand Prize series

                  I need the first and the 6th and then I'll stop

                3. I have four cookies that I make each year as the base for the cookie and candy boxes I give out. First is an apricot foldover which is an adaptation from an old Ladies' Home Journal recipe.
                  Then there is Champagnebrød which are pressed butter cookie strips filled with strained apricot jam from the Dec 1975 Gourmet Magazine
                  Third is lemon stars which are an adaptation of Cooks Illustration butter cookies
                  The last is a cranberry pistachio biscotti. I don't remember where I got that one.

                  Here is a photo (I hope) of one of my cookie plates.

                  12 Replies
                    1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                      Those Champanebrod are amazing - I made them after AGM posted the rec on another board a few years back. I think they are one of the best cookies that I ever ate - and I've eaten a LOT of cookies :-)

                        1. re: girlwonder88

                          AGM, hope you don't mind - I found the link to your previous post. Here's the recipe:

                          1. re: gimlis1mum

                            Oh no, now I have to buy a cookie press? I have resisted for so many years.....

                            1. re: coll

                              can't tell you how many times I've seen them in charity shops, for a couple of bucks......or I'll just toss you mine, since I can't figure out who to use it :(

                        2. re: gimlis1mum

                          i am so thrilled that you liked them. My hint on making these is to watch the cookies closely so they don't get too brown. I have a cookie sheet with a lip on one side and long frosting spatulas that I use to turn them. The lip helps because you can use them as a stop.

                        3. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                          Are the apricot foldovers the cannoli shaped cookies? When I first looked at your photo, the filling looked like ikura (salmon roe). Now that would certainly be an interesting cookie.

                          1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                            Hi AGM, can the dough for the apricot foldovers be made in advance and frozen?

                            1. re: jencounter

                              Sorry to be late responding as I have been busy baking cookies. Yes, the dough can be frozen. I don't make the dough that far in advance just early in the month then roll and bake them as I need them since they are best fresh. Also I have kept the filling for months so that too can be made in advance.

                              1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                Well, I made the cookies and I am here to tell you: they will be a permanent part of my Christmas baking from now on out. Delicious! Thanks for sharing.

                                1. re: jencounter

                                  Glad you liked them. I am getting to the point that there are so many in the permanent rotation that I have a hard time finding cookies to add.