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Baking new memories

By JANET K. KEELER
Published November 30, 2005


  photo
[Times photo: Bob Croslin]
Go to cookie recipes with photos
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Of all the special foods associated with Christmas, the cookie shines brightest, both on the holiday goody platter and in our memories.

Peppermint, chocolate, ginger and all manner of nutty flavors conspire to send us back to childhood. Or at least to last year when we stumbled on another fabulous cookie recipe.

We bake Christmas cookies for neighbors, co-workers and relatives, keeping a dozen here and a handful there for our families. We take them to exchanges for seasonal socializing and to multiply our bounty with minimal effort. And we are always looking for new treats to add to the repertoire.

This year's annual offering of two dozen St. Petersburg Times-tested recipes comes from food writers and editors around the country. Some of them are family favorites and others come from their readers.

Cooks do love to share successes, don't they?

It's difficult to pick a favorite because there are so many good ones. The Orange Drops from Jan Norris at the Palm Beach Post are the most Florida-centric. Cornmeal Cookies With Currants from Robin Davis of the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio are curiously delicious with the cornmeal lending a crunchy note and the currents the sweetness. Two sticks of butter make them oh-so-rich.

For flat-out gooey goodness, go for the Caramel Pecan Bars submitted by Natalie Haughton of the Los Angeles Daily News. We tested these several times to get just the right balance of cookie crust and oozing caramel topping. They need to be served soon after baking. Not a problem because they'll be gone as soon as you put them out.

Karen Pryslopski, our chief cookie tester and a photo editor at the Times, gives a flour-covered thumbs up to the Peppermint Fudgies from Nancy Baggett, a food writer from Ellicott City, Md. The dough barely got to the oven because Karen said she was nibbling all the way.

All the cookies were tested in Karen's home or mine. We like to test this way because it's how you cook: with residential equipment in kitchens sometimes too small for the tasks.

I am partial to the Mocha Macadamia Shortbread recipe I found on the Internet. It's simple and the cookie is close to perfect: light, crisp and buttery. Even without the coffee-flavored glaze it's delicious.

Virginia freelance food writer CiCi Williamson's Oatmeal Roll-Out Cookies are a sturdy alternative to sugar cookies that often lack flavor and break apart easily. The quick oats give them the gumption to stay together when baked in the shape of a Christmas tree or other festive symbol.

We start the cookie parade on this page with Pecan Pick-Ups from Karen Haram of the San Antonio Express-News in Texas and Peanut Butter Sandwiches from Peggy Katalinich at Family Circle magazine.

The Pick-Ups are baked in a pan that we love when we're in a hurry and don't want to drop spoonsful of dough onto cookie sheets. The sandwich cookies are just the opposite. A bit more labor-intensive but so satisfying and so ridiculously huge that you'll get all sorts of payback for making them.

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it's full speed ahead to Christmas. Won't you slow down to make time for baking cookies?

- Janet K. Keeler can be reached at 727 893-8586 or krieta@sptimes.com

[Last modified November 29, 2005, 10:47:04]


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