During the holidays when I was growing up, barely a surface of my home was left uncovered by faux pine or "snow," with garlands wrapped around the staircase railing. As an adult, however, I have never really gotten into winter tchotchkes or decorating for the holidays. But I do like to transform my kitchen into a sort of Santa’s workshop, with my oven turning out hundreds of cookies and other treats. Keeping in mind that these goods require an energy boost for those of us who make them, this year, I thought, why not lace my holiday cookies with some health-enhancing superfoods?
Tradition laden with nutrients
Matcha (a fine powder made from pulverized bright green tea) made me think of a forest of verdant little Christmas tree sugar cookies, each promising the concentrated antioxidants (and signature grassy flavor) of this special tea, higher than other green teas because it utilizes ground-up leaves, rather than filtering out whole ones.
Turmeric has been in the news a lot, said to ward off everything from cancer to arthritis to heart and liver disease. In addition, turmeric is perhaps the most promising food in terms of fighting depression—a true mood food if ever there was one. Turmeric brought me to thoughts of curries, and thus coconut, and with it, my favorite coconut cookie, the ANZAC biscuit. Chewy and salty-sweet, the turmeric version brings a note to the cookie plate that is at once exotic and familiar.
Finally, I wanted to include a classic holiday Linzer cookie, which has always gotten its toasty flavor from ground nuts. Why not make them with walnuts, whose health profile (one ounce boasts more antioxidants than you get from all the fruits and vegetables you eat in a day) should crown them as king of the nuts?
I'm not claiming that these cookies will work any miracles, but I do promise that a little nibble will bring you that kind of whole-body good feeling that, who knows, might just have the power to transform your day.
Matcha Sugar Cookies
Makes about 5½ dozen cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional
for rolling out cookies
3 tablespoons matcha powder**
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter,
at room temperature
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk, optional
1¼ cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons matcha powder
3 tablespoons milk
Red, white, or silver sprinkles or
dragees (silver sugar balls)
A Christmas tree cookie cutter.
For the cookies:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, matcha powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl once, about 7 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl once, and mixing until the dough just comes together. If the dough remains crumbly, add the milk a tablespoon at a time and mix until it just comes together. Press into a flat brick and wrap in plastic; refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.
Bring the dough to room temperature for 10 minutes. Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking pads. Dust a work surface and rolling pin lightly with flour.
Remove a third of the dough and roll it out to about 1/8-inch thick. (Keep remaining dough wrapped in plastic.) Cut into trees and gather up the scraps; wrap scraps in plastic and refrigerate. (Repeat with remaining dough; you may re-roll scraps a few times.) Transfer trees to the lined baking sheets and bake until toasted and fragrant, switching and rotating the pans halfway through, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
For the icing:
Whisk together the confectioners' sugar and matcha powder, then whisk in the milk until smooth. Spoon the icing on top of the cooled cookies and let excess drip off back into the bowl; sprinkle with decorations. Place on a rack to dry rack to cool.
Coconut-Turmeric Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 5½ dozen cookies
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup all-purpose f our
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons turmeric
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking pads. In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut, four, oats, sugar, turmeric and salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the baking soda and boiling water. In a small saucepan, melt together the butter and honey. Remove from the heat, then whisk in the baking soda mixture. Stir into the flour mixture.
Pack teaspoons of the dough and turn out onto the lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, switching and rotating the
baking sheets halfway through, about 10 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
Walnut Linzer Thumbprints
Makes about 5½ dozen cookies
1 cup walnuts
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into
1¾ cup all-purpose f our
A scant ½ cup raspberry preserves (not seedless)
Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking pads.
Spread the walnuts out in a small baking pan and bake until fragrant, about 12 minutes. Cool completely and leave the oven on. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the nuts with the sugar, cinnamon and salt until ground to sandy crumbs. Add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, and pulse until blended before adding more. Add the f our and pulse until the dough forms a cohesive ball. Scrape the dough into a medium bowl.
Remove heaping teaspoons of dough and roll into 1-inch diameter balls. Arrange dough balls about 1½ inches apart on the lined baking sheets. Press an indentation in the center of each ball. Fill the thumbprint in each cookie with about ¼ teaspoon raspberry preserves. Bake until toasted on the edges and fragrant, switching and rotating the pans halfway through, about 15 minutes. Let cookies sit on the cookie sheet on a cooling rack 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.
Leslie Porcelli is a freelance writer living in New York. Previously she was an editor at Gourmet and Martha Stewart Living.