For as long as I can remember, my family has baked fruitcake and cookies at home for Christmas. When I was as young as three or four years old, my grandmother set my brother and I to work picking stems off raisins or helping with rolling out cookie dough. This was all very exciting for us and of course there were perks too — when the adults were not looking, you could happily (and sneakily) enjoy ‘chef’s treats’ like raisins, chocolate chips and other good things while you worked.
My grandmother’s cookies always included kalkals — an Indian Christmas cookie that you had to painstakingly roll out with a fork and then dredge in icing sugar (the process was tedious but the result was delicious), and some form of gingerbread or sugar cookie which was then decorated with nuts and/or raisins. Much as I enjoyed these traditional cookies, I absolutely love experimenting with Christmas cookies. My past creations have included German Linzer cookies (I can’t get enough of the almond-raspberry pairing), sugar cookies with royal icing (a staple in my Christmas folder), gingerbread cookies, thumbprints, candy canes (a dreadful experiment which yielded beautiful-looking cookies that tasted absolutely vile) and a wide variety of shortbreads, among others.
This year I intend to experiment with more eclectic flavours, including a rosemary citrus shortbread, an Italian Zaletti cookie and the German Pfeffernusse. But along with these sophisticated flavours, I fully intend to include a good healthy dose of chocolate. These chewy chocolate crinkles with their pretty ‘snow’ effect — achieved by rolling them in copious amounts of icing sugar before baking — are just perfect for Christmas. They are ever so slightly crisp on the outside but soft and fudgy on the inside, almost like a brownie in cookie form — a brookie if you will! They key to getting the right texture is minimal dough mixing and ensuring that the cookies are the right size, i.e., a tablespoon full or more of dough per cookie.
Baking cookies is a fun Christmas tradition. Try these delicious and easy chocolate cookies this holiday season
Chewy Chocolate Crinkles
118g cocoa powder
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
250g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
60g icing sugar (for rolling the cookies before baking)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line two or three baking trays with wax paper. Combine the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside for later. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla essence in a mixing bowl and combine with a hand beater or a stand mixer (using the paddle attachment). The idea is simply to mix the ingredients, not to cream them, so don’t over process. Add the eggs in, one at a time, mixing for 10 seconds between each addition. Finally, add in the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Cover the mixing bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least one hour. Once the dough has had its time in the fridge, use a tablespoon to measure out the dough and roll it into balls. The dough will be quite sticky when you do this — this is normal! Roll the dough balls in icing sugar, making sure they are well-coated and place two inches apart on a cookie tray. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookies are crinkled but still soft to the touch. Cool completely before storing in airtight containers at room temperature.
One of the reasons I love making these cookies around Christmas time is because you can make the dough ahead of time, roll the balls and then freeze them on a cookie tray. Once the balls are frozen, store them in a freezer bag for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to bake, thaw the cookie balls on a tray for at least 30 minutes, then roll them in icing sugar and you’re ready to bake.
Enjoy your cookies and don’t forget to have a very Happy Christmas!
The writer holds a diploma in pastry from Le Cordon Bleu.
She tweets at @marylouandrew
Published in Dawn, EOS, December 22nd, 2019