Monday, December 17, 2007

Recipe: Christmas Nougat Cookies

I met Kate in college. She was my first friend who liked to cook as much as I did, a rarity in the days before celebrity chefs, non-stop televised cooking shows, and internet recipe exchanges.

I haven’t seen Kate in ages, but I fondly think of her every year when I make Christmas cookies. Since the years Kate and I joined together for holiday baking binges, I’ve made Christmas Nougat Cookies (aka Angel Cookies), a recipe her mom sweet-talked out of a commercial baker in Seattle and scaled down for home use.

Christmas Nougat Cookies are sweet and crisp, nutty and almost like candy. Their flavor is similar to Torrone, the white Italian nougat that is my favorite candy. They're also a dead ringer for Archway holiday nougat cookies, a Christmas treat that, sadly, has disappeared from the grocery store.

Over the years, I’ve made Christmas Nougat Cookies with every kind of nut – cashews are my current favorites, but the cookies are also delicious with pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, macadamias, and peanuts. I make at least 15 dozen every year; Christmas Nougat Cookies are one of the most requested items on my annual holiday cookie tray.

Before I tasted Christmas Nougat Cookies, I questioned making them with pure vegetable shortening rather than butter. Even in those days, I was a believer in baking only with butter; shortening in cookies seemed just plain wrong. Tasting made a believer out of me; these cookies are amazingly good.

Christmas Nougat Cookies (Angel Cookies)
Makes 5 1/2 dozen cookies

The soft dough doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and rolls out easily. The cookies do not spread when they are baked, so can be placed closely together on the baking sheet. As a result, they are quick and easy to make.

1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 cups roasted nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325°F (300°F for convection ovens).

In an electric mixer, cream the shortening and powdered sugar, scraping down the sides from time to time. Add the salt and vanilla, and mix thoroughly. Using the mixer’s paddle attachment, mix in the chopped nuts. Add the flour, and mix just until it is thoroughly combined with the other ingredients.

On a well-floured surface, with a well-floured rolling pin, roll out the dough 1/4” thick. Using a 1 1/2” round cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place 1/2” apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake 8 minutes, being careful not to let the cookies brown (they should still be white when you remove them from the oven). Transfer to racks and let the cookies cool completely. Store Christmas Nougat Cookies in an airtight container.

Christmas Nougat CookiesThis is my entry for Eat Christmas Cookies, sponsored by Food Blogga. Susan's round-up of all the cookie recipes is here.


Don't forget to buy your Menu for Hope raffle tickets no later than December 21-- all proceeds go to the UN World Food Program. The Menu for Hope prize I am offering is described here (wild oregano, handmade sheep cheese, handmade egg noodles, and autographed copy of Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska), the list of all West Coast Menu for Hope prizes is here, and the list of all worldwide Menu for Hope prizes is here. For more information about Menu for Hope, go here.


Mike of Mike's Table said...

You had me at torrone. I'll have to give these a shot. I'm a bit curious about the butter vs shortening thing...

Laurie Constantino said...

Mike, I made them once with butter, and they just weren't very special -- pretty much your standard shortbread.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Hi Laurie,
No wonder they're also called "angel cookies." They are simply heavenly. I think I would prefer these to the original Torrone. Thanks so much for submitting them to Eat Christmas Cookies. Cheers, Susan

Peter (Souvlaki For The Soul) said...

Hi Laurie. What a great(and easy!) recipe for cookies this holiday season. I've never used vegetable shortening so I'm curious as well about the texture and taste. Beautifully presented as well.

Peter M said...

"Rolls outs easy"? I'm sold on these!

Patricia Scarpin said...

They look great, Laurie!

Elly said...

oh YUM!

Happy cook said...

Wow they look so delicious. I have never had them, wanted to pick one and taste.

Ivy said...

Hi Laurie, I am for vegetable shortening as well but in Greece I couldn’t find anything which was satisfactory until now. I tried fytini, which I didn’t like but last week I found a new vegetable shortening, and because it was the first time I tried it I used 50% butter and 50% vegetable shortening in my cookies. It turned out great, so I will be using it a lot from now on.

Laurie Constantino said...

Susan, prefer to Torrone? Well, they are certainly easier on your teeth than Torrone, and they are heavenly! Thanks for the nice write-up on Food Blogga.

Peter, I know just what you mean - I definitely questioned the shortening until I tried it, and it is essential to both the texture and taste.

Peter M. -- and I don't lightly say it rolls out easy. Because the dough is so soft it almost rolls itself! Rolling it on a floured surface is essential.

Patricia and Elly, glad you liked them!

Happy cook, sure wish I could give you a plate!

Hi Ivy, what is the brand of the shortening you are using? This year I used Crisco Zero Trans-Fat Vegetable Shortening.

Lucy said...


Such a simpe list of ingredients - I think 15 dozen is a fairly hefty amount to make, but I'm sure it's a joy to make with a trusted, loved friend. Happy Christmas Laurie!

daphne said...

hey hey, saw your entry at Eat Christmas cookies and love the look of that. What a good idea! thanks for sharing!!

Joanne said...

Yum - I just love nuts in my cookies! I have to try this cookie recipe soon. I'm also pining for the Greek goat milk cheese and so I had to improve my chances of winning by getting a couple of the raffle tickets...I'm keeping my fingers crossed :D

Laurie Constantino said...

Happy Christmas, Lucy! And it's 15 dozen only of this kind. This year at our cookie baking extravaganza (4 bakers, including me) we made 11 different kinds of cookies in one day. It is exhausting, but we walk away with enough cookies to make all our friends and families very happy.

Hey, hey, Daphne! Glad you liked the cookies.

Joanne, I'm with you, nuts in cookies are very delicious. Thank you so much for donating to Menu for Hope - honestly, I'd be thrilled if you won the prize I donated.

Gretchen Noelle said...

These look very tasty! Something I may have to try baking come the new year!

maybahay said...

they sound great. i will give these a go, i'm sure they're delish.

Andaliman said...

Let me try this recipe one day. Thank you

Laurie Constantino said...

Gretchen Noelle, they are indeed tasty, plus easy (and vegan).

Maybahay, they are indeed!

Andaliman, glad you like them -- nice seeing you again!

Coffee & Vanilla said...

Laurie, those cookies look amazing.

Happy Holidays, Margot

Laurie Constantino said...

Margot, they are. But dangerously good, in the sense that you might want to eat too many!

Linda Elias said...

We call them satan cookies around here, because they taste so good it's too hard to just eat a few.Thank you so much for posting the recipe and making me buy bigger jeans.

Laurie Constantino said...

Linda, sadly, you are completely right about satan's hand in these cookies, and so sorry about those slightly larger jeans. These are a homemade version of Archway's Nougat Cookies. I now understand why Archway only makes them at Christmas time - they're too dangerous the rest of the year!

Linda Elias said...

Okay, Ive been fooling around with this recipe for almost a year now. My entire family is addicted, and I cant even visit my mother without all the ingredients lined up on the kitchen counter when I get there. Ive substituted vanilla malt for up to one half of the flour with incredible results. Ive used rum, hazlenut,almond, vanilla, cherry ( that was interesting)flav0rings and combinations of all of them with great results as well. Ive cut the sugar ( yeah..dont do that), cut the salt ( they were still good but i missed it- but definitely do it with the malt, and tried different brands of vegetable shortening ( Crisco has worked the best, and im going to try butter flavor the next time..hmm) . This is such a versatile and delicious recipe. Thank you so much for sharing. Im so thankful, I forgive you the ten pounds I've gained..

Laurie Constantino said...

Hey Linda! By vanilla malt, do you mean malted milk powder? If not, what is it? Let me know, as I'm always up for trying a new variation, especially one that creates incredible results! I agree with you that Crisco definitely works the best flavor-wise. I have tried it with butter flavor Crisco and don't like the cookies as well, but if you try it, I'm interested in what you think. Thanks for your comment - it made my day!

Linda Elias said...

Yes, malted milk powder. But make sure it isnt the chocolate flavored. Carnation makes the stuff I use. But definitely cut the salt a bit. Malt has salt in it, and if you dont cut it, eek.
The higher the malt content, the thiner and crispier the cookie is. My mother loves them because they melt in your mouth, literally. I cant have nuts, so I never make them with any in them, so let me know how they taste with the malt and nuts. Also, Mom is diabetic, so I use tiny little cookie cutters so she cant overdo..:) Seriously, my whole family is in love with these things. And I LOVED the Archway version, but it s a pain to have to pick out the nuts.Try them with rum flavoring..mmmm.