This Christmas will be the first time that I host a holiday dinner for a large crowd! Needless to say the past month has been filled with scouring through recipes, testing them out and deciding whether or not they are worthy of a Christmas Feast. My main struggle is trying to keep things fairly simple while creating an elegance and charm that sets this meal apart from any other weekend. Simple Elegance. Hmmmm…
One thing that drives me insane is an overly crowded dinner table FILLED with decorations, serving plates, glasses, butter, jam, and much more! I am definitely one that enjoys simplicity and a fairly clear table. (That was a MUST for our wedding - a beautiful table with room to see the table cloth!)
Our wedding table scape…
I like to have a separate little table for large platters of food to give guests the room to breathe and more importantly room to eat!
This being said… I have to be honest with you. I’m “hosting” Christmas dinner at my parents’ house. I know! After all of this explaining and these pictures… nope, I’m not having dinner here. My home, as adorable and warm as it is, isn’t suitable for a crowd of 12. Half of us would have to eat in the living room and the rest in the dining room and kitchen. I prefer all of us at one table. My parents’ house can accommodate such a crowd and my need for togetherness. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like it when family members sit at different tables. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people eating in the living and dining room at one time. A lot of the time this is what happens at my house when we have guests over so please don’t think that I frown upon this. It’s just for this particular meal I have a vision of all of us together because this is the first time in a very, VERY long time that we have so many loved ones gathered at one time. I can’t wait for there to be too many family members to fit at one table!
Anyway, I really want to introduce to you these cookies from Nigella Lawson. I just want her British accent and her incredible ability to speak as if she’s reading from a novel. Nigella is absolutely lovely in every sense of the word.
These cookies are chocolate shortbread cookies. Amazingly good but easy to dry out. So keep a close eye on them.
Nigella’s Chocolate Christmas Cookies
Makes 24 cookies
Source: From Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson. Also found on Oprah.com
2 1/4 sticks (18 Tbsp.) soft butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup boiling water , from a kettle
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325° and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl and, when you have a light, soft whipped mixture, beat in the 1/3 cup cocoa powder (sifting if it is lumpy) and, when that’s mixed in, beat in the flour with the baking soda and baking powder. Or just put everything in the processor.
Nigella recommends using vinyl gloves when handling the dough due to its sticky nature. Personally, I didn’t find it necessary. Pinch off pieces about 1 tablespoon in size, roll them into balls, then slightly flatten into fat discs as you place them, well spaced, on your cookies sheet.
Bake each batch for 15 minutes; even though the cookies won’t feel as if they’ve had enough time, they will continue to cook as they cool. They will look slightly cracked on top. Mine never got that crackly appearance but I took them out anyway because I didn’t want to dry them out. You’re icing them anyway.
Move the cookie sheet to a cold surface and let it sit for 15 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack, with a sheet of newspaper under it (to catch drips while topping them).
To make the topping, put the cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, water and vanilla extract into a small saucepan and whisk over a low heat until everything is smoothly combined. Take off the heat for 10 minutes.
When the cookies are cool, drizzle each one with a tablespoonful of chocolate glaze—it will help “glue” the sprinkles on in a minute. Use the back of the spoon to help spread the mixture, though an uneven dribbled look is part of their charm. After you’ve iced 6 cookies, scatter with some of the Christmas sprinkles and continue until all the cookies are topped. If you ice them all before sprinkling, you will find the cocoa “glue” has dried and the sprinkles won’t stick on.
From Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson. Copyright © Nigella Lawson 2008. Photographs Copyright © Lis Parsons 2008. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.