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Bake two, they're small

Two dozen Times-tested cookie recipes from food writers around the country.

By JANET K. KEELER
Published November 30, 2005


  photo
[Times photo: Bob Croslin]
Go to cookie recipes with photos

Santa's Whiskers

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon rum extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup finely chopped red and/or green candied cherries

3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

3/4 cup flaked coconut

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add milk and vanilla and beat well.

Add flour and beat until well mixed. Stir in cherries and pecans. Divide dough into thirds. Shape each portion into a 7-inch-long log. Roll each log in 1/4 cup of the coconut to coat. Wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

Cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool cookies on wire rack.

Makes about 80.

From Kathryn Rem, food editor, State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.

Peanut Butter Sandwiches

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg Peanut butter filling:

3/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Glaze:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

4 teaspoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt. In large bowl, beat butter, peanut butter, sugar and egg until smooth. On low, beat in flour mixture.

For each cookie, roll 1 rounded teaspoon dough into 1-inch ball; place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes until puffed. Let stand 2 minutes on sheet. Remove cookies to rack; let cool.

To make filling, in bowl, mix peanut butter and confectioner's sugar. Spread flat side of half the cookies with 1 rounded teaspoon filling; top with remaining cookies.

Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes.

In small bowl, microwave chips and oil at full power for one minute; stir until melted. Dip cookies halfway into chocolate; let excess drain off. Place on waxed-paper-lined sheets. Drizzle with remaining chocolate. Refrigerate to set.

Makes about 3 dozen.

From Peggy Katalinich, food editor, Family Circle magazine

Peppermint Fudgies

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels, divided use

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

6 tablespoons finely crushed peppermint candy, divided use

1 large egg

1/4 teaspoon peppermint or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Line several baking sheets with baking parchment or aluminum foil. In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave 1 cup chocolate morsels and the butter on full power for 1 minute. Stir well. Continue microwaving on medium power, stopping and stirring at 30-second intervals. Stop microwaving before the chocolate completely melts and let the residual heat finish the job.

Stir the condensed milk, half the crushed candy, the egg and peppermint (or vanilla) extract into the chocolate mixture until blended. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and cocoa. Stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the remaining 1 cup chocolate morsels. If the dough seems too soft to drop, let stand for 5 minutes to firm slightly.

Drop the dough by heaping measuring tablespoonfuls, or use a small ice cream scoop lightly coated with nonstick spray, on the baking sheets, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 6 to 9 minutes, or until the centers are almost firm when pressed. Do not overbake.

Remove from the oven and garnish each cookie with a pinch or two of the remaining crushed candy. Bake for 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until the candy bits begin to melt. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer to the rack to cool completely.

Makes 40 to 45 cookies.

From Nancy Baggett, freelance food writer and author of "The All-American Dessert Book" (Houghton Mifflin), Ellicott City, Md.

Sitting Pretties

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Finely chopped nuts

1 16-ounce can vanilla frosting (or homemade frosting)

Red and green plain or peanut M&M's

In bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Blend flour and salt into mixture. Cover and chill dough 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dip each into egg whites that have been beaten slightly. Roll in nuts. Place balls 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in preheated oven 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Gently press your thumb, or use a thimble, to make an indentation in center of cookie, creating a shallow well.

Return to oven and bake 5 more minutes. Cool. Fill indentation generously with frosting and decorate with red or green M&M's.

Makes about 3 dozen.

From Nancy J. Stohs, food editor, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Oatmeal Roll-out Cookies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup uncooked quick oats

Buttercream frosting for decorating

Sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Blend in milk, egg and vanilla. Sift in flour, baking powder and salt; mix well. Stir in oats.

Roll out one-third of dough 1/4-inch thick. Cut out with floured cookie cutters and place shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until very light brown on the bottom. (Cookies should not be brown on the top or edges.) Repeat with remaining dough. Ice with with buttercream frosting and decorate with candy sprinkles if desired.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

* Without the frosting this cookie is not sweet.

From CiCi Williamson, freelance food writer, McLean, Va.

Mincemeat Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cup prepared mincemeat

2 egg whites for wash

With electric beater, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in the eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir this into the butter mixture only enough to blend. Chill the dough 30 minutes or overnight. Remove one-quarter at a time; keep rest refrigerated. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the dough into rounds with a floured cookie cutter. Depending on how large you want to make each cookie, spoon between 1/4 and 1 teaspoon of mincemeat onto the center of each round. Place a second round on top and press the edges together with a fork. Prick the center of each cookie to allow steam to escape during baking. Whisk egg whites and brush on cookies.

Bake 10 minutes, depending on the thickness and diameter of the cookies. Remove the cookies from the pan while warm and cool on wire rack.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies.

From Ron Krueger, food writer, Flint (Mich.) Journal

Hungarian Walnut and Sour Cream Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons sour cream

3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Coating:

11 /4 cups finely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup sugar

Vanilla sugar for sprinkling (see *)

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cloves and set aside.

Using a handheld mixer, beat the butter with the sugar, egg, zest and vanilla until smooth and well combined. On low speed, stir in the sour cream and scrape the bowl well. Using a wooden spoon or a fork, stir and fold in the dry ingredients. Add 3/4 cup chopped walnuts and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate dough 1 hour or longer in a covered mixing bowl for easier handling.

Adjust the rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with regular aluminum foil. Combine the 11/4 cups chopped nuts with the sugar in a small bowl or on wax paper.

Make tablespoon-sized balls of dough and roll in the nut and sugar combination to coat completely while flattening each one into a chubby patty. Place on the baking sheet with 2 inches between each one.

Bake 8 minutes. Reverse the pan so the back is in the front and bake 8 minutes longer. The cookies are done when a tester inserted comes out clean or they spring back when pressed. Cool the cookies in the pan on a wire rack 5 minutes. Remove the cookies to a wire rack for complete cooling. Before serving, sift a shower of vanilla sugar over each cookie.

* To make vanilla sugar, split 2 whole vanilla beans and bury them in a canister of confectioner's sugar. Allow the sugar to age several days before using it. You can omit this step and use plain confectioner's sugar.

Makes 27 to 30 cookies.

From Dolores Kostelni, freelance food/travel writer, Lexington, Va.

O'Henry Bars

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/4 cup light Karo syrup

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats, uncooked

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

In 8-inch square glass dish, melt butter in microwave. Remove; mix in corn syrup and brown sugar. Stir in oats. Microwave on full power until bubbly, about 3 to 4 minutes. In separate bowl, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter about 1 minute in microwave. Stir and pour over hot mixture. Refrigerate until firm; cut into bars.

From Karen Haram, food editor, San Antonio (Texas) Express-News

Oatmeal Gingersnaps

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco

1 egg

1/4 cup light Karo syrup

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup old-fashioned or quick oats, uncooked

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup or more sugar

Combine light brown sugar and shortening; beat until creamy. Stir in egg and Karo syrup.

Add flour, oats, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt to the creamed mixture and mix well. Chill dough for 1 hour.

Lightly grease a cookie sheet and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup granulated sugar on a plate and spread it out.

Roll spoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls, then drop balls into sugar on the plate and roll around to cover.

Place sugared dough balls on cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let stand 3 minutes before removing to racks to cool.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

From Tommy Simmons, food editor, The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

Orange Drop Cookies

2/3 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon orange extract

2 tablespoons grated orange rind

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Icing:

2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened (do not melt)

4 tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon orange extract

Orange zest for decorating

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix shortening, sugar, egg and sour cream. Stir in orange juice, extract and rind.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir into orange juice mixture until well combined. Dough will be soft; if too soft to drop, add more flour as needed.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

To make frosting, combine confectioner's sugar and butter; add orange juice and extract to to make spreadable frosting. More sugar may be needed; sift over bowl and combine well to prevent lumps.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

From Jan Norris, food editor, Palm Beach Post

Chinese Almond Cookies

1 1/2 cups shortening (Crisco preferred)

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon almond extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 egg whites for wash

48 toasted almond halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease baking sheets (or line with parchment paper).

Cream together shortening and sugar until smooth. Add egg and extract and mix. In a separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Blend into shortening mixture.

Pinch off a walnut-sized bit of dough, roll it into a round and place it on the cookie sheet. Whisk egg whites and brush on cookies. Place an almond half on top of the cookie and press lightly.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

* Best made when not overly humid and eaten within a couple of days, to assure crispness.

Makes 4 dozen.

From Wanda Adams, food editor, Honolulu Advertiser

Mocha Macadamia Shortbread

3/4 cup (31/2 ounces) salted macadamia nuts

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Mocha icing:

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

3 tablespoons boiling water

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place the macadamia nuts and sugar in a food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture resembles a fine meal. Add the vanilla extract and butter. Process just until smooth. Add 1 1/4 cups of the flour and pulse just until the flour is incorporated. Stir in the remaining cup of flour and process just until the dough starts to form a ball. Briefly knead the dough to fold in any loose crumbs.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a log about 8 inches long on a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Tightly wrap the dough and twist the ends closed. Chill for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the chilled dough into 1/3-inch-thick slices and place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake in the center of the oven for about 8 to 9 minutes, or just until set but not brown. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack (careful, they're fragile while they're still warm).

To make glaze, dissolve the coffee in boiling water. Whisk in the melted butter, confectioner's sugar and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Cover the icing with plastic wrap, with the wrap actually touching the surface, until you use the icing.

Glaze the cookies while still warm with mocha icing, using a pastry brush. For less sweet cookies, drizzle the glaze over cookies. Store completed cookies in an airtight container to retain crispness.

Makes 4 dozen.

From Janet K. Keeler, food editor, St. Petersburg Times

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 scant teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 jumbo eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

12 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate chips

6 ounces white chocolate chips

1 cup pecan pieces (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour with the soda and salt. Set aside.

Combine granulated and brown sugars with the butter and beat on highest speed of an electric mixer until creamy. Scrape bowl several times during the mixing. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Scrape sides. Add vanilla.

Add flour mixture until blended. Scrape sides.

Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. With a tablespoon, drop cookie batter 1 inch apart. Flatten each cookie slightly with the palm of your hand.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, depending on your choice of soft or crisp cookies. Cool completely before stacking in an airtight container.

Makes about 36 cookies.

From Valerie Hart, freelance food writer, Mount Dora

Sicilian Fig Cookies

Dough:

4 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco

1 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup milk

Filling:

About 20 dried figs

1/2 pound raisins (dark or light)

1/2 pound dried apricots

1/2 pound dried cherries or cranberries

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 8-ounce jar honey

1 cup water

Icing:

3 cups confectioner's sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

Milk, as needed

Colored candy sprinkles (optional)

To prepare the dough: Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and set aside. Cream the shortening and sugar until creamy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Then gradually add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk, until well blended. The dough should be soft, not dry and stiff. Chill for 1 hour or overnight.

To prepare the filling: Cut away hard stems of the figs. Chop figs and dried apricots finely. Put the figs, apricots, raisins, dried cherries, cloves, cinnamon, honey and water into a heavy pot and cook until the liquid is absorbed into the ingredients. Cool slightly. (Filling can be made one day ahead; refrigerate after it cools and bring to room temperature to make cookies.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough into eighths, working with one piece at a time and keeping the rest refrigerated. Roll each piece into a rectangle about 5 by 12 inches. Spread the filling along the longer edge, roll over once and tuck under. Cut away any excess dough on ends.

Cut the roll into 11/2-inch pieces. Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

To prepare the icing: Cream the confectioner's sugar and the vegetable shortening. Add enough milk until the icing spreads smoothly without running. After frosting the cookies, top with colored candy sprinkles.

Makes about 6 dozen.

From Karin Welzel, food writer, Pittsburgh (Pa.) Tribune-Review

Easy Oatmeal Bourbon Cookies

1 cup margarine, softened

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup water

1 package yellow cake mix

3 tablespoons Maker's Mark bourbon

3 cups quick oats, uncooked

1 cup nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream margarine and sugar in mixer; add egg, water and 1/2 package of dry cake mix, blending thoroughly. Stir in remaining cake mix, bourbon, oats and nuts. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake exactly 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool slightly and remove from baking sheet.

These cookies will appear "not quite done" when you take them out of the oven, but they will continue cooking on baking sheet.

Makes 4 dozen.

From Sharon W. Thompson, food writer, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader

Pecan Pick-Ups

Crust:

1/2 (1 stick) cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup flour

Pinch of salt

Filling:

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make crust, blend butter, powdered sugar, flour and salt with fork. Pat into greased 9-inch square pan, covering only bottom of pan. Bake 15 minutes. While baking, prepare filling.

Combine brown sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, salt and pecans, then pour onto partly baked crust. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until set. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Makes 36 bars.

From Karen Haram, food editor, San Antonio (Texas) Express-News

Death By Chocolate Cookies

16 ounces semisweet chocolate

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coarsely chop the chocolate. Set aside half. Place the remaining chocolate in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high 1 to 2 minutes or until melted. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Stir brown sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla into melted chocolate. Stir in flour and baking powder. Stir in reserved chopped chocolate. (The batter will resemble brownie batter.) Drop by 1/4 cupfuls or by rounded tablespoonfuls for smaller cookies onto cookie sheets. Bake until puffed and center feels set to touch, about 11 minutes for large cookies, 7 to 9 for smaller cookies.

Makes 12 large cookies or about 24 regular size.

From Robin Davis, food editor, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch

Cornmeal Cookies with Currants

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup dried currants

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease cookie sheets. Combine flour and cornmeal in a medium bowl. Beat butter, 3/4 cup sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Beat in the flour mixture at low speed just until combined. Beat in currants. Let dough stand 10 minutes.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Pour remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a shallow bowl. Roll each ball lightly in sugar. Arrange on prepared cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between. Flatten to 1/4-inch thickness with the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar.

Bake cookies until edges are golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets about 2 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool completely.

Makes 4 to 5 dozen.

From Robin Davis, food editor, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch

Almond Macaroons

1 pound almond paste (see note)

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 large egg whites

1 pound (31/2 to 4 cups) slivered or sliced almonds, or pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly butter sheets. Break almond paste into pieces; place in mixing bowl with sugar. Break up almond paste with your fingers or an electric mixer, crumbling ingredients together as you would for a pie crust, until evenly combined.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Stir a little of the egg whites into the almond mixture; it will be fairly dry. Fold in remaining whites. Place almonds or pine nuts in a shallow bowl. Roll almond paste mixture into 1-inch balls, keeping them as round as possible. Press each ball into nuts and gently turn to coat evenly; they will look like little porcupines. Place on prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake cookies until evenly pale gold, 15 to 17 minutes.

Cool cookies in pans on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. With a spatula, carefully transfer cookies to rack to cool completely. These macaroons keep well; store in an airtight container.

* Be sure to weigh almond paste carefully. If you use too little, the cookie mixture will be loose and much harder to work with.

Makes about 4 dozen.

From Carolyn Jung, food writer, San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News

Toffee Squares

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate pieces

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 15- by 10-inch jelly-roll pan with foil. In a medium bowl, beat together butter or margarine, brown sugar, egg yolk and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add flour, beating until well blended. Spread mixture evenly in foil-lined pan. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden.

Sprinkle chocolate pieces evenly over cookie surface. Bake 2 to 3 minutes or until chocolate melts. Remove from oven and let stand 1 minute. With a knife, spread melted chocolate evenly over top.

Sprinkle with walnuts. While warm, cut into squares. Cool in pan. Store in refrigerator, if desired.

Makes about 54 cookies.

From Natalie Haughton, food editor, Los Angeles Daily News

Caramel Pecan Bars

3 cups chocolate cookie wafer crumbs (see note)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1 to 1 1/4 cups chopped pecans

1 (12-ounce) jar caramel ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 360 degrees.

Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with no-stick aluminum foil (or line with foil and grease foil with butter). In a medium bowl, combine cookie crumbs and melted butter; stir until well mixed. Press evenly in bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips, then top with pecans.

Place caramel topping in a microwave-safe container (you can melt caramel in glass jar with lid removed). Microwave until warm, about 1 minute on high, stopping and stirring after 30 seconds. Drizzle evenly over pecans.

Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until caramel is bubbly around edges and on top. Cool, then refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars. Serve immediately or they will get sticky and gooey.

* You can use Oreos but the crust will be crumbly. Chocolate wafer cookies can often be found near ice cream toppings rather than on the cookie aisle.

Makes about 53 bars.

From Natalie Haughton, food editor, Los Angeles Daily News

Ribbon Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely chopped candied cherries, divided

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted

1/4 cup chopped almonds

Line bottom and sides of 9-inch loaf pan with aluminum foil. Beat butter at medium speed with electric mixer until creamy. Beat in sugar gradually. Add egg, vanilla and almond extract; mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to butter, mixing until well blended. Dough will be stiff.

Divide dough into thirds. Add half the cherries to a third, kneading to blend. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Knead melted chocolate and almonds into another third. Press evenly over cherry layer. Add remaining cherries to remaining third of dough and press evenly over chocolate layer. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours. When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. Invert pan; remove foil from dough.

Cut dough lengthwise into 3 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on racks.

Makes 6 to 7 dozen cookies.

From Kathleen Purvis, food editor, Charlotte (N.C.) Observer

Apricot Walnut Bars

3/4 cup dried apricots

Water

1 1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour, divided 1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine

2 eggs, well-beaten

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Put the apricots in a saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Drain, cool and chop apricots. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sift 1 cup of the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut butter or margarine into it until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Pack the dough into a 9- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan and bake for 25 minutes.

While crust is baking, combine eggs and brown sugar. Stir in 1/3 cup sifted flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, walnuts and apricots, and mix well. Spread over baked layer. Bake 35 minutes. Cool in pan; top will be soft.

Cut into 16 large squares or 32 strips. Freezing is not recommended.

From Linda Giuca, food editor, Hartford (Conn.) Courant

Candy Cane Puffs

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup confectioner's sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

8 ounces white chocolate baking pieces, melted

1/2 cup finely chopped candy canes

Stir together flour and salt in medium-sized bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until smooth and creamy. Beat in egg. Beat in peppermint extract and vanilla.

On low speed, beat in flour mixture. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned; cookie tops will not be brown at all. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Brush melted white chocolate on top and sprinkle with crushed candy canes.

Makes 4 dozen.

From Peggy Katalinich, food editor, Family Circle magazine

[Last modified November 30, 2005, 10:39:21]


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