Two days left until Christmas...have you baked your cookies yet?
Let's face it. The holidays without cookies are like a bed without sheets, a kitchen without tea towels, a holiday table without a beautiful jacquard tablecloth... (You'll indulge us a little linen humor, won't you?)
Perfect! Now that we've established the absolute, categorical, undeniable necessity of cookies at Christmastime, allow us to share a recipe that we're betting will shoot right to the top of your holiday cookie list as the ultimate hostess gift, cookie exchange cookie (if you're willing to part with them in such a manner), and most of all, after-Christmas-dinner delicacy. Served on a beautiful plate, (shown above on Natale by Arte Italica), these gorgeous, buttery, bite-sized treats (read: dessert crack), are veritable scene stealers. Bring a batch to Christmas dinner and prepare for lavish praise, utterances of "mmmmm" and "are you kidding me?"...followed by fervent pleading for the recipe.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 can vanilla frosting (rich-and-creamy style, not "whipped")
1 bag Peanut M&Ms (or the almond variety if you prefer. Or if you're feeling really crazy, the peanut butter ones)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Blend butter and brown sugar in bowl until creamy. Beat in vanilla and egg yolks (keeping the whites in a separate small bowl--they'll come into play later).
Add the flour a half cup at a time, blending as you go. Add salt. Mix until completely incorporated. Chill the dough at least one hour. (Or, if time is on your side, call it a night, pour a glass of wine, and finish up in the morning).
Ready for the assembly line? Fabulous! Roll dough into 1" balls. Dip each ball lightly into the reserved egg white. (If you're too heavy-handed, things will become soggy and unfortunate very quickly). Then roll each ball in the nuts.
Place each ball 1" apart on cookie sheet sprayed with baking spray or lined with parchment paper or--one of the culinary world's most awesome inventions--Silpat baking mats.
Bake 6 minutes. Remove from oven. Using the handle-end of a butter knife, make a hole/impression in the center of each cookie. Bake 6 more minutes.
Cool completely, then fill the holes with little dollops of vanilla frosting. (If you jump the gun and frost with the cookies still warm in the least, your Sitting Pretties will not be pretty at all.) Top with M&Ms. Prepare to be attacked.
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