Well, it hit, the seasonal urge to bake cookies. I spent hours trying to decide what kind of cookies to make. There are so many that I want to try!
I was feeling a little gun-shy after my first attempt at making homemade marshmallows last week. (The first batch immediately ended up in the garbage after I realized I was now wearing only nine acrylic nails that I had done just for the holidays!) But keeping the Christmas spirit, I decided to go ahead with making the cookies. This time, not wanting to play "French-tip" Russian roulette, I removed the rest of my "nails" before making the cookies.
I started out wanting to make my mother's famous mint snowballs but I had a special request for something with coconut. So I adapted a recipe (although not exactly my mother's secret recipe) and substituted the peppermint extract with coconut extract. The result, YUMMY!
The recipe follows but here a few tips.
When mixing the ingredients the dough seems a little dry and crumbly. Do not be tempted to add any liquid, it's perfect. It should look like this:
Even after chilling the dough, the mixture will seem to not want to stay together. But keep in mind, the dough is not meant to be rolled out or cut into perfect shapes. It does make it easier to use a measuring spoon to form the balls and make them a uniform size but you can make them look a little more "organic" by rolling the dough into a ball with your hands. Just be sure you don't pack the dough so tight or you'll end up with something like the consistency of a nice hard rock! These are meant to crumble and melt in your mouth when you bite into them.
After baking, they should be just slightly golden but not too brown. The picture above is before they went into the oven. And don't worry if the bottoms are a little jagged. The toasted coconut will hide this.
It's important to let the cookies cool on the baking sheet instead of transferring them to a cooling rack. They are still a little delicate when they are straight out of the oven and may break apart if they are handled too soon. Once they are cool you can begin to decorate them.
What I love about these cookies is that you can make so many different flavors from the same basic recipe. I decided on coconut because of a special request but you could make these with lime, rum, mint, or whatever. Keep in mind to taste test the dough if you are using a different flavored extract. The original recipe called for 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract which is a lot stronger flavor than the coconut. I ended up using 3 teaspoons of coconut extract, tasting after each teaspoon to get the flavor the way I wanted it. I wasn't sure about the coconut at first. I was afraid that they would come out tasting like a baked Pina Colada. But they had more of a yummy, nutty flavor and the aroma...to die for!
I also used what was called "fancy flake" style coconut flakes. Different manufacturers may call it something else but its basically coconut flakes that have been coated in sugar. This style makes the flakes sort of carmelize when toasted and makes them crispy and kind of sparkly.
The texture of these are dry at first with a little crunch from the toasted coconut but, turn smooth and almost creamy in your mouth. These are the perfect cookies for having with hot cocoa or a giant glass of milk.
Coconut Shortbread Snowball Cookies
(Makes about 45 cookies)
3 cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vegetable shortening
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
3 teaspoons coconut extract
Into a bowl, sift the flour and salt to blend well and remove any lumps. In a separate bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Sift the powdered sugar into the butter and add the vegetable shortening. Beat the mixture until smooth. Beat in the coconut extract. Gently stir in the sifted flour and salt. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for 15 to 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Gently pack the dough into a rounded 1 tablespoon size measuring spoon to form a ½ ball shape. Gently remove the dough by pressing evenly with the side of your finger at one end of the ball to push the dough out and place on the baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until very lightly golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet before decorating.
1 cup fancy flake (lightly sugared) coconut flakes
1 1/3 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 tablespoon milk
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
In a clean, ungreased skillet, lightly toast the coconut flakes, stirring often until lightly golden. Set aside to cool. In a bowl, stir together 1 cup of powdered sugar and milk to create a simple frosting. (Reserve the 1/3 cup powdered sugar for dusting.) Lightly sift some of the reserved powdered sugar over a new parchment lined baking sheet or tray. Take each cooled cookie and dip the bottom into the frosting coating the sides about 1/3 of the way up. Next, dip the bottom of the cookie into the toasted coconut and set on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the cookies. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate until silky smooth, keep on low heat. With a small spoon, take a bit of melted chocolate and top each cookie with a small amount. Do not cover the whole cookie. Repeat with the other cookies. Finally, lightly sift the rest of the powdered sugar over the top of all the cookies.