Holiday Baking Part 1: Cinnamon Polar Bears

15 Dec

Christmas Cookies. There’s nothing better. That is, there’s no possible better excuse to break out the pounds and pounds of butter and invest in multiple bags of sugar. Even my mother will acquiesce to my requests to stock up on these staples in order to supply her with a steady stream of outgoing Christmas gifts.

This year, we had a particularly special reason for mass-production of baked goods. Multiple times while I’ve been at school, my younger brother’s school has reached out to parents with requests for cookies for bake sales and the like. My mother usually signs up for the minimum commitment with a sigh, wishing I were present to take the reins on the baking (she doesn’t have the time, or the patience, really). For once, the schedules lined up: I was in town for the most extravagant request of all. For the two days they had finals, the kids at my brother’s school were presented with plates full of cookies between tests… the idea was to make enough for each kid to have 3-4 cookies, for a total of a few thousand cookies. Before my own finals week, my mom approached me with the email that had been sent out requesting that parents sign up to bake… I was more than happy to contribute (incidentally, looking forward to this baking extravaganza may have been the only way I got through my tests…)

So sign up I did. 100 cookies each day, for two days. And boy, oh boy, did I bake.

The recipes will be trickling in over time, as not all of them are necessarily strictly “Christmas” cookies (though they all fit the general holiday theme).  Featured on the first day were our special sugar cookies, chocolate crinkles with holiday-themed kisses, and cinnamon polar bears. These adorable bears have made appearances on our cookie plates a few times in the past, and my mom was adamant in her request for me to make these, and these specifically.

My grandmother, who admittedly thinks everything I do is perfect (as all grandmothers are supposed to!), thought these were about the most beautiful things she’d ever seen. I just accepted the compliment and happily devoured my only Cinnamon bear (we were trying to conserve them, you see).

They are a little labor intensive, as you have to specifically put eyes and ears and design each individual cookie. However, it’s all quite simple, and tends to go a lot faster than you might think. And the payoff is in the gasps of awe at the sheer adorableness of your creation (in addition to the taste of the beautifully buttery, soft cookies themselves!)

Cinnamon Polar Bears
Courtesy of Pillsbury (via one of the many, many holiday mini-magazines in our collection)
Makes 48 according to the recipe; I got about 60 (my cookies are always small!)

For dough:

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For decorating:

Powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips (double the number of cookies you get)
Red cinnamon candies (one for each cookie)

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well-combined. Sift in flour and cinnamon and mix well. Refrigerate for at least one hour, or until it is cold enough to handle. (The dough gets very sticky when warm, and is hard to deal with; I had to keep the bowl in the fridge and take out separate chunks as I shaped the dough).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape each cookie with 4 balls: one about 1 inch in diameter (flattened slightly into a disc-like shape), and 3 balls ¼ inch in diameter. Place two of the smaller balls on the top side of a larger ball as ears, and one on top of it as a snout. Flatten snout slightly. Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart (these don’t spread too much, but they do grow a bit; I also found it easiest to use parchment paper after losing one or two ears that stuck to my cookie sheet).

Bake for 11-15 minutes or until firm. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and sift powdered sugar over cookies (if you do this step second, the eyes end up white! Order is important!) Press a red cinnamon candy into the snout of each cookie, then gently press a single mini chocolate chip in the place of each eye. Work quickly, as it’s easiest when they’re warm.


4 Responses to “Holiday Baking Part 1: Cinnamon Polar Bears”

  1. Lauren @ WWoB January 5, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Well I just hardcore read your blog! Thank you for coming out of the woodwork to say hello, I may not have found you otherwise! Finding other college food blogging ladies is always a pleasure :)


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