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Everyday Food: Three new cookies for the holiday jar

Cinnamon-Almond Stars: Rolled and cut from a Marsala-infused dough, these cookies also get their tasty, old-school Italian goodness from light-brown sugar and finely ground almonds.
Cinnamon-Almond Stars: Rolled and cut from a Marsala-infused dough, these cookies also get their tasty, old-school Italian goodness from light-brown sugar and finely ground almonds. Sang An

Beyond the decorations, carols and presents, nothing says Christmas better than a platter of festive cookies — and a jar or box filled with an assortment of holiday sweets makes a perfect gift for friends and neighbors. Here are three cookie recipes sure to inspire happy times.

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Cinnamon-almond stars

Makes about 30

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup (5 ounces) almonds, toasted
  • 1  1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine

For the icing:

  • 2  1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • Gold pearlized sugar (available at baking-supply stores)

1. Make the cookies: Pulse almonds with  1/4 cup brown sugar in a food processor until finely ground. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

2. With a mixer on medium speed, beat butter with remaining 1 1/4 cups brown sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in egg and Marsala until combined. Reduce speed to low and add almond and flour mixtures, beating until just combined.

3. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

4. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Let dough stand at room temperature until pliable. Roll out one dough disk on a lightly floured surface to just under 1/4 inch thick. Using a 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out as many stars as possible, rerolling scraps once. Arrange stars 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.

5. Bake, rotating sheets once, until edges are golden, 9 to 11 minutes. Let cool on sheets 1 minute, then transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool completely. Repeat with remaining disk of dough.

6. Make icing: With mixer on medium speed, beat confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons water, vanilla and orange zest until smooth. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a small writing tip, or a resealable plastic bag with a corner snipped off. Decorate cookies with icing and sprinkle with pearlized sugar; let set about 30 minutes. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container, between sheets of parchment or waxed paper, up to 1 week.

Nutritional analysis per star: 162 calories, 6 grams fat, 25 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 46 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 32 percent of calories from fat.

Rasberry palmiers

Makes about 9 dozen

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  •  1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

1. Pulse flour and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add sour cream and pulse until mixture holds together when pinched.

2. Knead dough on a work surface to bring together, then flatten into an 8-by-6-inch rectangle. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle half of mixture evenly on work surface. Let dough stand at room temperature until pliable. Cut in half; place one half of dough on sugared surface.

4. With a floured rolling pin, roll into a 14-inch square. Spread half of jam onto dough, leaving a  1/4-inch border all around. Starting from one side, tightly roll dough toward center, incorporating sugar. Repeat, rolling other side to meet first roll in middle. Freeze 15 minutes.

5. With a serrated knife, cut dough crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. (Refrigerate dough as needed if it gets too soft to slice.) Arrange slices 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.

6. Bake 10 minutes. Carefully flip palmiers with an offset spatula and bake until golden, about 6 minutes more. Let cool on sheets 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Repeat with remaining sugar mixture and dough. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container, between sheets of waxed paper, up to 1 week.

Nutritional analysis per pastry: 48 calories, 3 grams fat, 5 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 12 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 54 percent of calories from fat.

Oat-pecan caramel sandwiches

Makes 38 sandwich cookies

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) raw pecans
  • 2  1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 1  1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Make cookies: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans and oats evenly on separate rimmed baking sheets; toast until fragrant and golden brown, about 7 minutes for pecans, 15 minutes for oats. Let cool completely, then finely chop pecans.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. With a mixer on medium speed, beat butter with brown sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, molasses and vanilla until combined. Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture just until combined.

3. Stir in oats and pecans. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

4. Roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls; place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets once, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 week before filling.

5. Make the filling: Combine granulated sugar and  1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved; stop stirring and cook until dark amber in color, swirling pan to color evenly, about 7 minutes. Wash down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent crystallization as mixture boils. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in cream (it will spatter) and butter until combined. Transfer to a bowl; let cool completely.

6. Spoon about 3/4 teaspoon filling in center of flat side of half of cookies (or pipe using a resealable plastic bag with a corner snipped off); top with remaining cookies, flat sides down.

Nutritional analysis per sandwich: 178 calories, 10 grams fat, 20 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 32 milligrams cholesterol, 55 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 51 percent of calories from fat.

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