A World of Christmas Cookies

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Story: Theresa Campbell Photos: Fred Lopez

A resident of Legacy of Leesburg for more than six years, Pat Medrick loves baking a variety of Christmas cookies for the holidays, including international favorites. “Sometimes I do 20 different kinds of cookies,” she says. “I make little packages and give them to my neighbors.”

As a little girl growing up in New Jersey, she remembers spending hours watching her mother make batches of holiday cookies. “It was always a big deal at our house. She did the cut-out cookies, and when my three kids were growing up, that was a big deal for them, too. I would make the cookies and get frostings and all kinds of things that they could put on it. They would invite their friends over and have a cookie-decorating party.”

Pat also shared her cookie-baking passion with many foster children in her care while living in Michigan. “The foster kids never had those kind of experiences so they loved baking Christmas cookies and they loved eating them even more,” she says.

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Pat traditionally starts her holiday baking right after Thanksgiving, often making rolled refrigerator cookies that can be sliced, baked, and placed in the freezer. Among her favorite cookies to make and share are international sweet treats, like Russian Tea Cakes, and she enjoys using an electric cookie press to make Spritz cookies from Scandinavia.

“It’s a regular cookie press with a trigger and it makes perfect cookies,” says Pat, noting the electric cookie press is ideal for her at this stage in her life. “My hands have arthritis now, and so it is really hard to do press cookies.” Pat says her husband, John, of 51 years, loves it when she whips up his favorite cookies—Date Nut Pinwheels—which take three days to prepare.

She first makes the dough, chills it, spends another day making the filling, then spreads it on the dough, rolls it up, chill the dough again, and then slice and bake on the third day.

In spirit of the Christmas season, Pat agreed to share less time-consuming international cookie recipes for Lake and Sumter Style readers.


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RUGELACH (From Germany)

Pastry ingredients:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature 1 cup butter 2 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions: In food processor with steel blade, process cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Add flour, process until well blended and dough begins to cling together in a ball. Cover and refrigerate pastry for several hours or overnight

Nut Filling ingredients: ½ cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces or currants 1 cup finely chopped walnuts ½ cup sugar 2 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 ½ tablespoons butter, melted

Directions: In a medium bowl, combine chocolate pieces or currants, nuts, sugar, cinnamon and butter. Set aside.To bake cookies, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Divide dough into 3 equal portions. On a floured board, roll each portion into an 11- to- 12-inch circle. Spread each circle evenly with 1/3 of nut filling. Cut each circle into 16 equal wedges. Roll up wedges, beginning from wide end, pressing tip to secure. Place point-side down on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Remove cookies from baking sheets; cool on racks.

Makes about 48 cookies.


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SPRITZ COOKIES (From Scandinavia)

Ingredients: 1 ½ cups butter 1 cup granulated sugar 1 egg 2 tablespoons milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ½ teaspoon almond extract 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly cream butter and sugar. Add egg, milk, vanilla, and almond extract; beat well. Stir together flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing to make a smooth dough. Do not chill. Place dough in cookie press and onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Remove cookies from sheet; cool on rack.

Makes 7-8 dozen cookies.


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KOURAMBIEDES (From Greece)

Ingredients: 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 1/3 cup powdered sugar 1 egg yolk 1 ½ tablespoons brandy 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 ½ cups cake flour Powdered sugar

Directions: In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer at high speed until light-colored, about 10 minutes. Gradually beat in 1/3 cup powdered sugar until well blended. Beat in egg yolk, brandy, and vanilla. Gradually beat in cake flour. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. To bake cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 1 ½ inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Cookies should remain white on top. Remove cookies from baking sheets; cool on racks. While hot, sift powdered sugar generously over tops.

Makes about 50 cookies.


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RUSSIAN TEA CAKES (Also called Mexican Wedding Cakes)

Ingredients: 1 cup butter, room temperature ½ cup powdered sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla extract Pinch of salt 2 cups all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon baking soda 1 cup chopped pecans Powdered sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat together butter, ½ cup powdered sugar, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour and baking soda until well blended. Stir in pecans. Roll dough by teaspoonfuls into balls or crescent shapes and place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to lightly brown. Remove cookies from baking sheets; cool on racks. While warm, sift powdered sugar generously over tops.

Makes 55 to 60 cookies.

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