Well friends, it’s that time of year again. Everywhere you look, pine trees are decked out in lights and ornaments brightening up living room windows, stacks of presents have been wrapped and tucked away safely out of sight in the back of the closet or under the bed, kids (and adults too) growing antsy and restless as they await the upcoming holiday break, and families are busy planning for get-togethers to celebrate the season with a big traditional dinner.
And wouldn’t you know it – you forgot to make a dessert again, didn’t you?
Not to worry – you’re old pal Perry is here to help.
As is common with so many holiday treats, the real trick comes down to presentation. Anyone can toss together a batch of cookies or make a tray of brownies at the last minute – there’s nothing special, meaningful, or fun about that though. And really, isn’t half the fun of baking for a holiday party making a fun snack that’s themed with the time of year? Be it creepy eyeball cupcakes for Halloween, heart-frosted cookies on Valentine’s Day or an Anniversary, or simply a decorative, seasonal pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, the fact is that you have to bring a dessert that’s both tasty AND themed to the holiday spirit.
And so it is that, just like in the age-old carol, Rudolph comes to our rescue!
These cookies meet all the criteria for a perfect quick, last-minute dessert project for your upcoming family dinner or party. They’re cute and fun, delicious, and surprisingly easy to make. I’ve see these treats out at just about every party this time of year, but have somehow never made them myself before, despite their apparent popularity. Thankfully, just earlier this week Nicole corrected that when she asked me to help make a few dozen of the peanut butter reindeer:
I think all that’s missing is a gingerbread Santa sleigh for this team to pull!
And the best part is, you likely won’t even have to make a last-ditch sprint to the grocery store to pick up any ingredients. The recipe I got from Nicole is fairly standard for any peanut butter cookie, the antlers and specially colored eyes and nose the only thing even potentially out of the ordinary. I’m willing to bet you probably have the following somewhere in your kitchen cupboards somewhere:
- Butter (1 Cup)
- White sugar (1 Cup)
- Smooth peanut butter (1 Cup)
- Eggs (2)
- Vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)
- Salt (1/2 teaspoon)
- Flour (3 cups)
- Baking soda (2 teaspoons)
- Small pretzels (72)
- Bag of holiday (red-and-green) M&Ms
See? I was right, wasn’t I? And the kitchen equipment list is even easier:
- Stand mixer or large mixing bowl
- (And I mean a LARGE bowl – you will need it)
- Rubber spatula
- Measuring cups & measuring spoons
- Cookie sheets
So first things first – get that oven preheated to 375 F (190 C)
While the oven is heating up, get your butter, sugar, peanut butter, eggs, vanilla, and salt together in the mixing bowl, beating lightly until you have a creamy mixture. Next, add in the flour and baking soda and mix until you have a big, smooth ball of dough.
This is where having several available cookies sheets will be useful, because you’re going to want to separate out the dough into 36 individual balls, preferably laid out in even batches of 1 dozen at a time. Now here, I have insert a word of warning. If you are anything like me, then you are the kind of person who doesn’t like when a recipe tells you how many cookies it’s supposed to make. “3 dozen?!”, you say to yourself. “Those cookies are going to be way to tiny!”, you’ll shout, and instead separate out the batch into only 24 cookie balls rather than the full 36. I like a big cookie – so sue me. But here, you’re going to want to keep the balls of dough small and manageable. You need to make sure you have extra room on the cookie sheet to flatten and shape Rudolph’s head and to add the antlers, and if you make them any bigger than this you run the risk of running out of room very quickly. So, just this once, heed the instructions and keep it at a full 36 cookies – you’ll thank us for this later.
Speaking of which, now it comes to shaping the cookies. The best way to do this is to gently flatten each ball, pressing your fingers along the sides to turn the ball into a flat triangle. Next, slap on a couple of pretzels for antlers and add some eyes and a red nose from the M&M bag. (You’ll want to really make sure that these toppings are pressed gently, but firmly, into the raw cookie shape before baking – otherwise they might fall out while the cookies are rising or pop loose when you pick them up. If the cookie edges start to crumble, just press the dough back together and re-shape around the pretzel and/or candy toppings as you go).
This shaping stage goes easier if you have two people cooking, such as Nicole and I did – one person starting shaping while the other takes care of the toppings.
By now, your oven should be ready to rock – put the trays in one at a time, and bake each one for 10-15 minutes. In our baking, we found that 12 minutes was perfect, but your own bake time might vary depending on the style and age of your individual oven. One done, remove and let the little guys cool while the next tray goes in.
These reindeer cookies aren’t just fun, they taste even better than they look. As if a traditional peanut butter cookies isn’t great enough by itself, the added chocolate candies and the toasted pretzels on top add a surprising amount of flavor (I was impressed that the pretzels didn’t burn while baking, something Nicole and I were both a little unsure about, having never put mini pretzels in an oven before. But rather than scorching, they actually do pick up a nice, light toasty flavor that goes great with the creamy peanut butter taste). These are fun for any family get-together where young kids and adults alike will find the treats to be a cute addition to the dessert table.
Bring along a plate (or two, or three) this weekend to spread a little cheer!