I spent all day today baking Christmas cookies. My three “must bake” cookies every year are Russian Tea Cakes/Wedding Cakes, Peanut Butter Blossoms, and Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bakes. They came out great! I made double batches of each, plus two pumpkin pies for my husband, and regular chocolate chip cookies for my students this week. I’m tired! And I feel like there’s butter on me…

Russian Tea Cakes (from Betty Crocker):

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
Extra Powdered sugar for rolling

1. Heat oven to 400ºF.

2. Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack.

5. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bakes (from cooksrecipes.com):

1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened baking chocolate*
2 cups granulated sugar
Pinch kosher or coarse salt
1/2 cup 2% milk (it calls for 2% but I always use skim and never have a problem)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups quick-cooking oats

1. Have all ingredients measured and ready. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or foil; set aside. <– rather than doing this, I usually just cover the whole table and counter with wax paper. It never seems to all fit on a baking sheet. Next time I'm going to try putting it in a cake pan and then cutting it into bars after it cools.

2. In a large heavy saucepan melt the butter and chocolate over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add the sugar, salt and milk and continue stirring until mixture comes to a full rolling boil. Without stirring, let mixture boil for exactly 3 minutes, no more – no less. Immediately remove from heat.

3. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla, stirring until peanut butter has melted. Quickly stir in the oats, mixing well.

4. Working fast, drop mixture by spoonfuls onto waxed paper or foil. Allow to cool and become firm, about 30 minutes.

*Or substitute chocolate squares with 6 tablespoons baking cocoa and increase the butter to 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons. Combine the sugar, salt and baking cocoa in the saucepan first, slowly add the milk while stirring until all ingredients are moistened; add the butter and continue as directed above.

Peanut Butter Blossoms (from Better Homes and Gardens):

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
milk chocolate kisses

1. In a large mixing bowl beat the shortening and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium speed 30 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of bowl. Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour.

2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree F oven 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate kiss into each cookie’s center. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.

NOTE: I used our KitchenAid mixer on these and the dough came out “whipped” and was impossible to roll into balls. So instead, I put the dough in a ziplock bag, cut off a bottom corner, and then piped it onto the tray. Worked like a charm.

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