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You've heard that the most important consideration when buying a piece of real estate is location, location, location, right? A similar slogan for the holidays could be, then, decoration, decoration, decoration -- what with the trimming of trees, the lighting of candles, the weaving of wreaths and the frosting of cookies, among oodles of other festive activities.
Now, maybe some of us have the enormous patience required to decorate our holiday cookies in painstaking detail, but there are probably many more of us who'd rather just get the job done and then move on to the next project. That's where these cookies come in. First of all, the silky smooth shortbread-like dough they're made from is a joy to work with, and there's no tedious rolling to tend to. Then, there's the extremely easy way that this little decorating fact of life can be taken care of (details below). The end result is a beautiful batch of tender sugar cookies, half-glazed in chocolate and gussied up with as little or as much garnish as you see fit -- and all created without working up a sweat!
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 egg yolk (save the white for meringues)
2/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
chocolate jimmies, colored sugars, finely chopped nuts or other sugar decorations
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, egg yolk and brown sugar until well-combined. Mix in the flour and salt gradually. Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour (while you wrap presents or attend your exercise class).
After the dough has chilled, break off teaspoonfuls of it and form them into balls. Place them on lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, and press gently down onto each ball with the bottom of a juice glass that's been dipped in granulated sugar.
Bake the cookies in a preheated 375°F oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they're lightly browned. Remove them from the oven and cool them on a wire rack.
When the cookies are cool, glaze half of each with the melted chocolate. You can dip each cookie in chocolate to coat both sides of the half, or use a flat butter knife to cover the top side only of the half (which is much easier). Then make small piles of whatever garnishes you use -- it's fun to mix and match -- and dip the chocolate end into the decorations. Refrigerate the cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet until the chocolate sets, about 1 hour. Yield: about 40 cookies.
Just A Hint: When you're melting chocolate to use as an icing or glaze (as in the recipe above), be very careful that alcohol, water or any other water-based liquid doesn't get into the chocolate. Even a drop can make the chocolate "seize up" immediately, i.e., thicken into a dull, clay-like substance that's impossible to spread or drizzle. If you want to flavor your chocolate, don't use an alcohol-based flavor or extract; be sure to use one based on oil.
Nutrition information per serving (1 chocolate-coated cookie without decoration, 17g): 81 cal, 4.4g fat, 1g protein, 4g complex carbohydrates, 5g sugar, 17mg cholesterol, 30mg sodium, 30mg potassium, 35RE vitamin A, 14mg calcium, 12mg phosphorus, 1mg caffeine.