Easy (Easier) Christmas Baking

My mom bakes up a storm over Christmas, but because she’s in England and didn’t pack lots of kitchen stuff (smaller kitchen, plugs are different, etc.) much of her baking in the last three Christmases has been scaled back considerably. So, for an easy, scaled back Christmas to get your GBBO on, here are two easy recipes (one isn’t even a recipe, really) – the reindeer cookies from Marks & Spencer and a recipe modified/adapted from Pinterest! The pie cookies started last year and are the newest cookie to grace my mom’s Christmas baking arsenal since, probably, 1975!

First, the reindeer cookies! Easy on a scale of 1-10, I’d say 6.5. Easy to make, PITA to assemble, but super fun if you have little kids (though supervised as some things have to be done when the cookies/baking tray are still very warm). And number two – the pie cookies are probably an 8 or 9 on the easy scale! There is no measuring or anything involved; they were made up and all baked in less than 2hrs – decorating for the next day.

Reindeer:

I was in a larger M&S food hall near my home and, on a whim, hoped they’d have cake mix. Yes, cake mix is more an American thing, but easy in a pinch when you don’t have time to make from scratch! Anyway, M&S did have the cake mix (carrot) and I found this box of reindeer cookies. The mix makes 12 cookies; comes with all the stuff – pretzels for ears, white chocolate for eyes, and jam for the noses! You literally just add butter. The cookies are shortbread, so when the come out of the oven use caution as typically, it crumbles easily. When I popped in the other day, the mix was on offer 3 for 2 or £1.50 per box!

HINT – put the pretzels in right when they come out of the oven and the cookies are still warm – don’t wait the 3-4min like the directions say!

Pie Cookies:

Adapted from Pinterest (if you have it, the link is here), they were supposed to be a topping for a turkey pie used from the leftover bits of Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey. How the idea came to turn them into cookies, I don’t remember.

  • 2 pre-made refrigerated pie crust (in the US, use your standard Pillsbury – in the UK use any standard shortcrust…I used some from Sainsbury’s that was on sale)
  • Chopped walnuts or pecans, or a mix (I just used a knife to coarsely chop mine)
  • Dried fruit (I had a mix of raisins, sultanas, cherrys, apricots, cranberries – or one or the other, whatever you prefer)
  • For the icing: Confectioners (icing) sugar, orange zest from a fresh orange, and rather than water, use the juice of the orange instead

Let the pie crust sit out for about half an hour to get to room temperature. Pre-heat your oven to 220c/425F.

Then lightly dust your work surface with flour so the crust doesn’t stick & is a bit easier to roll out. Roll out 1 crust so it’s a bit thinner and seal any seams (particularly in the Pillsbury crust). Sprinkle the nuts and dried fruit on the pie crust, then place the second pie crust on top and again, lightly roll out so the crusts are now even and the crusts are pretty well stuck together.

Cut out with a small 2″ round cutter, or be even more simple and use a knife or pizza cutter to easily cut them into squares! The pie crust will be a bit gappy – unless you go and try to pinch each individual round cookie together around the edges. Take all the bits of scrap dough together, ball it up, and roll it out again to get those last bits of cookie! (The cookies that are made with the scrap dough are square below, the just plain “sandwich” method had them round.)

Now, the alternative method, which I’m starting to think works better, would be to sandwich the nuts and dried fruit between the dough as above, but start with balling it up and then rolling it out (so you’ll have lots of cookies that will look like the square ones in my photos). The dough doesn’t seem to separate this way when baking. Go figure. Either way…

Bake for 15min (anywhere between 8-15 depending on your oven though – just lightly golden coloured). Based on the size of the cookies, and using up all the scrap dough, I got 58 cookies. If the square scrap bits had been a bit more even, easily 60 cookies – no bad.

After they’re cool, mix up some powdered sugar, orange zest, and orange juice to make a little royal icing glaze to drizzle over the tops. (Mine were still cooling at the time of this post). You could even sprinkle coarse sugar on the top before baking if you don’t like the idea of royal icing.

What’s not to like about pie crust, dried fruit, and nuts?!?!

 

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