Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lecia Cornwall's Best Christmas cookies EVER!


I make these cookies at Christmas every year. It started out as a treat to make for my children when they were too young to appreciate fruitcake or eat my boozy rum balls, and grew from there. First, there were several years of tweaking the recipe in The Joy of Cooking (see stained and rumpled page 705 in my battered copy), trying new chocolate, better ingredients, and hunting down superior chips— and just when I had cooking times perfect in Ottawa, we moved to Calgary, where baking at altitude offered a whole new learning curve.

I used to take my cookies to potluck pre-school Christmas parties, mail them to family far away, and give them to neighbors, teachers and dear friends, since it was difficult with two little kids to afford any other gift. The cookie list has grown every year as more and more special people have come into our lives.

Since these are haute cuisine indeed, and have been called more complicated than chef Heston Blumenthal’s recipe instructions, I’ll offer a few suggestions for beverage pairings. These cookies go well with red wine, according to my cousin Martin, who is on the cookie list every year. My son likes them with egg nog, my daughter with cold milk or hot tea. I can tell you that after baking, wrapping, shopping, decorating, and general Christmas mayhem, they also go very well indeed with a wee dram of Glenmorangie Scotch.

Since I can’t mail these everywhere to everyone who deserves them (does customs even have a tick box for Superior Cookies on the declaration form?), and people tell me this recipe can be trickier than Heston Blumenthal’s turkey instructions, if you try it and have questions, e-mail me at, and I will give you advice and help to make them perfect.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can play with it even further than I have and make it your own. Add different kinds of nuts, or try a new kind of chocolate (white, hazelnut, or Toblerone. perhaps?) This is an exercise in Christmas joy and creativity, and like decking the Christmas tree, there’s just no wrong way to do it.

Wouldn’t the world be a happier place right now if everyone had a warm melting cookie, fresh from the oven, clutched in our mittens? Try one, and you’ll see what I mean! And please pass them on to the ones you love.

This recipe makes a double batch, about 40 cookies(ish)

Cream 1 cup soft butter
Add and beat until creamy:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
a dollop of liquid honey—about a tablespoon
beat in:
2 large eggs
1 generous tsp. good vanilla
Stir in:
1 cup plus two heaping tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup cake and pastry flour
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp. baking soda
(You may need more flour. Add extra tablespoons of flour one at a time until the dough is stiff. It keeps them from spreading too much when you bake them, so they’re as lovely as they are delicious (hey, I’m a romance writer—pretty and delicious are important plot points!) Bake one or two as a test batch, and add more flour if they spread.

Stir in (this is the good part):
A generous amount of a mixture of best quality chocolate chips, dark and milk (I use Ghirardelli or Callebaut)
Throw in a handful of chopped chunks of good quality bar chocolate, dark and milk (I use those big 300g bars of Lindt Swiss Classic Milk and Lindt Swiss Dark Chocolate. Two of those bars make about three double batches of cookies. This year, I’m adding some 85% cocoa Lindt dark chocolate to the mix.

NOTE (this is important): Chop up the chocolate in advance and FREEZE it! It melts instead of burning.

Drop the cookies onto baking sheets, and—this is what makes them look like The Belles of The Ball—stud the top of the raw cookies with extra frozen chocolate chunks and chips. Lots of it. Now add a few more…

In Calgary, I bake the cookies in the top of my convection oven at 330 degrees F for 7 minutes.
In Ottawa, I baked them at 325 degrees F for 6 minutes on convection.
The Joy of Cooking calls for 10 minutes at 375 degrees, but the extra sugar and all that chocolate will definitely make that too long. Play with the position of your oven rack as well. I find the cookies bake best in my oven near the top.

Bake test batches of one or two cookies each first, to determine the best temperature and time. They should come out slightly golden, set in the middle, with the chocolate melting and lovely. They should be lumpy and thick, not flat. If they’re flat, add a little more flour to the dough. 

Wishing you a very Happy Holiday filled with sweet treats, lovely surprises, peace and joy, and All The Pleasures of The Season