Smart Cookies

‘Tis the season — now there’s a phrase you’ll be hearing ad nauseam during the next 23 days — for holiday baking.

What better represents holiday baking than Christmas cookies? And who better to consult for Christmas cookie recipes than Las Vegas chefs?

Herewith, some of their favorite cookie recipes:

VINTAGE BUTTERSCOTCH BARS

8 ounces unsalted butter

2 pounds light brown sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

12 ounces chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Melt the butter on the stove or in the microwave. Remove from heat and add to brown sugar in a mixer bowl, using paddle attachment. Mix until well blended. Cool to lukewarm.

Stir in the eggs one at a time. Then add vanilla, salt and baking powder.

Add flour all at once, then fold in walnuts.

Spray a 12-by-8-inch pan with cooking spray and line bottom with parchment paper. Spread mixture evenly on parchment paper. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the top looks shiny and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. If testing with a skewer, it will come out almost clean, with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Caution: Do not overbake.

Let cool completely before cutting into bars about 2 inches by 1 inch.

Makes about 48.

— Recipe from Kenny Magana, director of pastry, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHRISTMAS COOKIES

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter (divided use)

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

8 ounces white chocolate chunks

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and saute rosemary until fragrant (do not brown).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In mixing bowl, combine remaining 1 cup butter, rosemary, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat to incorporate. Gradually add flour to egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in chocolate, walnuts and cranberries.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

Makes about 24 cookies.

— Recipe from Irving Karas, executive chef, Envy the Steakhouse, Renaissance Las Vegas

JEAN PHILIPPE PATISSERIE CHRISTMAS COOKIES

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Additional granulated sugar

Icing (recipe follows)

Sift first three ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar in large bowl to blend well. Add egg, sour cream and vanilla; beat 1 minute. Beat in dry ingredients in two additions until just blended.

Gather dough together; divide in half. Flatten each half into disc; wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Soften dough slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle work surface and top of dough discs with additional sugar. Working with 1 disc at a time, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness (dough will be very soft). Using assorted 2- to 3-inch cookie cutters, cut out cookies. Transfer to prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Gather scraps and roll out on sugared surface; cut out more cookies. Repeat until all dough is used. Chill all cookies on baking sheets at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until light golden at edges, about 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

ICING

4 cups (or more) sifted powdered sugar (sifted, then measured)

3 tablespoons (or more) egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Colored sugar crystals, sprinkles and/or decors

Food-safe water-based colors

Combine 4 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons egg white, vanilla and lemon juice in medium bowl. Stir until icing is well blended, smooth and spreadable, adding more egg white by teaspoonfuls if too thick or more sugar by tablespoonfuls if too thin. Add the chosen coloring. Using a small icing spatula or table knife, spread a thin layer of icing atop each cookie. If using colored sugar crystals, sprinkle over cookies before icing sets. Decorate cookies as desired. (Can be made three days ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature.)

— Recipe from Jean-Philippe Maury, executive pastry chef, Bellagio

ITALIAN RICOTTA COOKIES

1/2 pound butter

2 cups sugar

Grated zest of 1 orange

2 eggs

1 pound ricotta

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter; add sugar and orange zest and continue creaming. Add eggs, ricotta and vanilla; beat well.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to batter.

Divide dough into teaspoonful-sized balls and roll until smooth. Place dough balls on ungreased baking sheets and bake in 350-degree oven or about 10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.

— Recipe from Anthony Meidenbauer, executive chef, LBS: A Burger Joint, Red Rock Resort

MY GRANDMOTHER’S ITALIAN PIZZELLE COOKIES

3 eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 ounces whole anise seed

1 cup sambuca liqueur

In a large mixing bowl, whip eggs and sugar; add the cooled butter and vanilla gradually. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the egg mixture. Then add the whole anise seed and sambuca. (The batter should be firm enough to be dropped by a spoon, but not too firm.)

Cook in a pizzelle maker (available at Italian delis, in cooking stores and online), according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Traditionally, my grandmother served them flat with powdered sugar, but you can shape the cookies as soon as they come of the machine and form cones or half-moons.

— Recipe from Anthony Meidenbauer, executive chef, LBS: A Burger Joint, Red Rock Resort

COLE’S CHOCOLATE CANDY CANE COOKIES

Cookies:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg

Filling:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoon organic peppermint extract

2 drops (or more) red food coloring

1 cup crushed candy canes

For cookies, mix flour, cocoa and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in egg. Add dry ingredients; beat until blended. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out dough by level tablespoonfuls, then roll into smooth balls. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Using bottom of glass or hands, flatten each ball to 2-inch round (edges will crack). Bake until cookies no longer look wet and a small indentation appears when the tops of the cookies are lightly touched with finger, about 11 minutes. Cool on sheet 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

For filling, using an electric mixer, beat powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl until well blended. Add peppermint extract and 2 drops food coloring. Beat until light pink and well blended, adding more food coloring by dropfuls if darker color is desired.

Spread 2 full teaspoons of filling evenly over flat side of 1 cookie to edges; top with another cookie, flat side down, pressing gently to adhere. Repeat with remaining cookies and peppermint filling.

Put crushed candy canes on plate. Roll edges of cookie sandwiches in crushed candies (candies will adhere to filling).

Cookie sandwiches can be made ahead.

— Recipe from Kim Canteenwalla, executive chef of Society Cafe Encore

WHITE CHOCOLATE-CRANBERRY OATMEAL COOKIES

8 ounces soft butter

8 ounces brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups quick oats

1 cup Craisins (dried cranberries)

1 cup mini white chocolate chips

Beat butter, brown sugar and sugar in mix with paddle attachment until fluffy.

Add eggs and vanilla, mixing just to combine.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and add to mixture. Add oats, Craisins and chips and stir to combine.

Bake at 325 until light brown, about 10 minutes.

— Recipe from Kerry Simon, executive chef, Simon Restaurant & Bar, Palms Place

BUTTERED ANISE BISCOTTI

4 1/2 cups flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup salted butter

1 1/2 cups chopped almonds

5 eggs

1/2 teaspoon anise oil (use anise oil; anise extracts do not provide the same flavor)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 stick salted butter (for rubbing on biscotti after baking)

Sift dry ingredients, add butter and mix until crumbly. Add almonds.

Beat eggs with vanilla and anise oil, add to the dry ingredients and mix to incorporate.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead until all mixed. Break into balls and roll into strips 12 inches long by 2 inches in diameter. Place rolled strips 2 inches apart on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and rub generously with stick of butter. Place on a cutting board and slice diagonally to make pieces that are about 3 inches long by 3/4 inch wide. Rub more of the butter over the cut sides.

Return to cookie sheet on a fresh piece of parchment paper, cut side up. Toast in the oven until cut sides are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool.

— Recipe from Lance Marcos, food and beverage regional manager for Golden Gaming

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474

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