The holiday season is always magical, but even more so for the young ones. My mother would transform our home into a wonderland. My grandmother would send me letters from Santa complete with stickers and written in red ink. I knew Santa had written to me personally! Elfie, with flexible legs and arms that can wrap around tree limbs, was perched on the mantel or in the tree watching to be sure we were behaving. I was extra good in the weeks leading up to Christmas, just to be sure I got presents and not a lump of coal in my stocking! As the baby of the family, my brothers helped build the excitement, never giving away the secret. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized how much fun it was for them to help my parents maintain the illusion for their little sister.
Nothing was more exciting than waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve. We would turn off all the lights except those on the tree and sit in front of the fire listening to carols on the radio, singing along to those we knew. Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Andy Williams provided the soundtrack for our holidays. We would set a plate with store bought cookies (Mom wasn’t a baker), a glass of milk, and a thank you note for Santa next to the fireplace. Right where he was sure to see them before heading to the next house.
The anticipation of Santa’s arrival made falling asleep nearly impossible, but somehow exhaustion overtook my enthusiasm. Before I knew it, it was morning (no doubt the crack of dawn) and Christmas was here! The chaos would begin … the sounds of ripping wrapping paper, squeals of delight as boxes were opened, laughter when jokes were played on one another, music playing, the fire popping, the aromas of hot cider and breakfast.
Over the years I have made hundreds of Santa cookies, always searching for something new and fun to share with the family. Sometimes they were ornately decorated, other times simple chocolate chips made an appearance, but they were always appreciated and quickly disappeared.
In honor of our trips to France, I thought a chocolate sable would be the perfect choice to bring to the family dinner this year. Sables (sahb-lay) are a cross between a butter cookie and shortbread. Lightly sweetened, insanely buttery, crispy and just a little sandy, they melt away as soon as they hit your tongue. Yep, perfect for this year’s Santa Cookie.
With all the work Santa has to do and the millions of children he has to visit in just one night, he needs nourishment to give him energy. There is nothing better than homemade cookies and a cold glass of milk to reenergize our favorite elf! Just be sure that the cookies are a flavor that your parents like, wink wink LOL.
What are your favorites to leave for Santa? Do you make the same cookies every year or switch it up? Even if you don’t make them for Santa, I’ll bet these cookies will show up on your table soon – they are too good to miss! 🙂
Happy Chocolate Monday and Merry Almost Christmas!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Because these are so delicious and freeze so well, I doubled the original recipe so I could have some extra stashed in the freezer for The Artist to bake when he needs a chocolate treat. 🙂
When I do this, I wrap the log of dough tightly in plastic, set a piece of paper or a sheet of parchment with the name of the cookie, oven temp, and baking time around the log, and wrap with a second layer of plastic. We don’t have to look up the recipe to find out how to bake them – just slice, bake, and eat!
One of the tricks to creating gluten-free baked goods that taste as good as anything made with wheat flour is to use super finely ground flours, especially if you are using rice flours. One of the first giveaways and least palatable aspects of working with gluten-free flours is grittiness. The usual culprit is rice flours, the foundation of most gluten-free flour blends. I use the superfine flours from Authentic Foods and people cannot tell that my baking is gluten-free! To help you reduce shipping costs, order 3 of their packages of flours and they fit perfectly in a flat rate box.
- 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free blend with xanthan gum*
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 2-1/2 sticks (10 oz) unsalted butter, preferably European-style, cut into tablespoons
- 1-3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 cup cold milk
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Sugar Crust
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 cup granulated cane sugar or 1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1/2 cup turbinado or other coarse raw sugar
- Fresh orange zest, optional
- Make the Dough: In a large food processor, pulse the flour, cocoa and salt together. (Add the xanthan gum if needed and pulse again.) Add the butter and process until sandy, about 3 minutes. Add the confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla extract and process until you get a firm dough and it cleans the sides of the bowl.
- Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Transfer the dough to 4 sheets of plastic wrap and form into four logs, each about 1-1/2 inches thick. Make them as even as possible and nicely rounded. The shape of the log will determine the shape of the cookies. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until very firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and position racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with sheets of parchment paper.
- Sugar Crust: Beat the egg whites in a small bowl. Sprinkle the granulated sugar and orange zest (if using) on a sheet of waxed paper, parchment, or a small baking sheet. Holding a log of dough vertically above the bowl of egg whites, brush the whites on all surfaces of the dough and roll the log in the sugar, pressing to help it adhere. Make sure all surfaces are thickly coated with the sugar.
- Work with one log of dough at a time, keeping the remaining dough chilled in the refrigerator. Using a very sharp knife and using a sawing motion so you don't compress the dough, cut the log into 1/4-inch slices and transfer to a baking sheet, cut side down, leaving about 1/2-inch between disks (cookies won’t spread much). Bake the cookies (one sheet at a time for the best results) for about 20 minutes, until just firm to the touch, spinning pan halfway through for even baking. They will not be noticeably different, but they will puff up a little.
- Leave the cookies on the baking sheet and place the whole sheet on a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Make Ahead: Cookies can be made ahead and frozen. It is best to wrap the cookie dough before brushing with egg white and rolling in sugar. Wrap logs in plastic and then in parchment. On the parchment label the cookies including the oven temperature and baking time and any specific directions. In this case it would include the directions for brushing with egg whites and rolling in sugar. Wrap again in plastic to hold the parchment in place. You can now freeze them and anyone in the house will have all the information needed to make freshly baked cookies any time they like!
- Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
- * If your gluten-free flour blend does not contain xanthan gum, add 1/2 tsp to the flour and whisk thoroughly. Then combine with the remaining dry ingredients and pulse several times before continuing with the recipe.
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