4 | Christmas Citrus
If your holiday season is filled with Safdie brothers film levels of familial intensity, then Sean Baker’s Tangerine will be welcome company. It follows how two transgender sisters, Sin-Dee and Alexandra, and an Armenian taxi driver spend their Christmas Eve in Tinseltown. Chaotic, intrusive and lonely, it’s ultimately a story about what constitutes family. A sentiment that makes it an immensely relatable holiday film.
Soft Frosted Orange Sugar Cookies
It seems everywhere I move comes with air thick from the scent of industrial food production: an orange juice canning facility, a dairy farm, a chocolate factory, a sugar beet mill and now a sliced-bread bakery.
Notes: Stick to Crisco here. Butter or coconut oil will ruin your texture. For a more complex flavor, use sugar coated fennel in place of sprinkles. The frosting will be nearly white, unless you dye it otherwise!
what you need
cookies: 1/2 cup Crisco, softened ◾ 1 cup sugar ◾ 1 egg ◾ 1/2 cup whole milk ◾ 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar ◾ 1/4 cup orange juice ◾ 1/2 teaspoon baking powder ◾ 1/2 teaspoon baking soda ◾ 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt ◾ 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
frosting: 3-4 tablespoons orange juice ◾ 1 tablespoon orange zest ◾ 2 tablespoons Crisco ◾ 2 cups confectioner’s sugar ◾ 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt ◾ food coloring (optional)
what to do
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small cup combine whole milk and vinegar to curdle (this is the buttermilk substitute that works well for baking). In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together sugar and Crisco. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by the milk mixture and orange juice.
Fold in dry ingredients. Then, one cup at a time, stir in flour until well combined.
Roll the dough into teaspoon sized balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are light golden brown.
While the cookies cool, combine all frosting ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Adjust orange juice to create desired consistency. Add food coloring now for colored frosting.
Frost after cookies have completely cooled. Decorate with sprinkles or sugar coated fennel.
What do you smell around town that puts you in the mood for cooking?
5 | Christmas with a Bang
Die Hard (1988)
In 1988, Christmas was probably still a pretty convenient plot device for placing someone living off an NYPD salary on a nearly $600 flight in today’s dollars. Flying to LA where there are no visually discernable seasons? Anything in the name of clearing the canvas for John McClane’s bad-assery. The success of sequels and mid-aughts meme culture carved a niche for this summer blockbuster into the holiday season. Yippee ki-yay…
Pan-Banging Sugar Cookies
Thirty years after John McClane saved Christmas, a Minneapolis baker popularized a baking technique that mimics gunshot sounds with the repeated slam of a cookie sheet against a countertop. The sugared sequel published in 2020 and I’ve made them several times since. Big, impressive and full of sprinkles is the checklist you want in a holiday cookie.
Check out Sarah Keiffer’s Vanilla Bean Blog for: Pan-Banging Sugar Cookies
Starting in the new year, I’ll be adding a recipe advice column. So if you’re looking for more personalized inspiration send an email to email@example.com with the name or a brief description of the last 5 recipes you enjoyed, your first name and current hometown to receive a customized recipe recommendation in an upcoming newsletter.
6 | Sloppy Christmas
Bad Santa (2003)
Spend too much. Consume too much. Make 200 promises for 20 days. Give someone their 400th chance. Stand in line for 3 hours to see a drunk guy in a red suit.
The holidays have a way of bringing out the self destructive streak in all of us. Maybe that’s the process of hope full circle. It’s certainly why we love laughing at degenerate misfits like Willie Sokes as they stumble their way towards another chance at redemption.
Zero Proof Old-Fashioned Snickerdoodles
Can we get a hallelujah that we’re past the apex of barrel-proof cocktails? It was fun while it lasted, but what a pushy way to throw a party. What I haven’t given up is cooking with Angostura bitters. A combination of orange extract and several secret spices, it is great as a vanilla substitute or added to a meaty stew. Here it chases the softer side of an old fashioned cocktail and adds intrigue to the standard snickerdoodle.
Adapted from Bake: Beautiful Baking Recipes from Around the World
what you need
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened ◾ 2 cups sugar, divided ◾ 2 large eggs ◾ 1 tablespoon Angostura bitters ◾ 2 teaspoons baking powder ◾ 2 teaspoons kosher salt ◾ zest of 1 small orange ◾ 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour ◾ 2 tablespoons cinnamon
what to do
Cream the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium until well combined, 2-3 minutes. Add the bitters and eggs and blend until almost smooth. Sprinkle baking powder and salt over wet ingredients. Zest the orange right into the bowl. Slowly stir in the flour, in 3 parts, until thoroughly combined. Press the dough into a large ball, wrap and chill for 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with wax paper.
For the cinnamon coating, mix together sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Scoop into rounded teaspoons and roll into golf-ball-sized balls. Roll each in the cinnamon mixture to coat and place on the baking sheet at least 2 inches apart.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. They will darken more on the bottom than you might think. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5-10 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.