Friday, July 11, 2014





Christmas is coming, so get baking already


December 06. 2013 10:26PM
ALISON LADMAN, Associated Press



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You know you can’t skip baking at Christmas. There needs to be at least a few cookies available to your kiddoes or the extended family or there will be mutiny. If you’re looking for a few new recipes to try, here are some options. Maybe they’ll become your new favorites.


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Freeze-dried strawberries add a potent blast of flavor to these cookies without watering down the dough. You’ll find them in the grocer’s natural foods section, or sometimes in the toddler food aisle. To crush them, either pulse them in a food processor or place them in a plastic bag and run a rolling pin over them.


The dough for these cookies is easily prepped ahead of time. Follow the recipe up through forming the dough into logs. The logs can be refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen up to three months. If frozen, allow them to thaw at room temperature for 20 minutes before slicing and baking.


STRAWBERRY PISTACHIO ICEBOX COOKIES


Start to finish: 3 hours 45 minutes (30 minutes active)


Makes 5 dozen cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature


1 cup sugar


2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1/2 teaspoon baking powder


1/4 teaspoon salt


2 egg yolks


2 cups all-purpose flour


1 cup crushed freeze-dried strawberries


1 cup chopped shelled pistachios


Sanding (coarse decorating) sugar


In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, baking powder and salt. Add the egg yolks and beat to combine. Stir in the flour until a dough just comes together. Stir in the strawberries and pistachios until evenly distributed.


Divide the dough in half. Using a sheet of waxed paper to help you work with the dough, shape each half into a log 1 1/2 inches around and 12 inches long. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.


When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375 F.


Place the sanding sugar in a dinner plate. Unwrap one of the logs and roll it in the sugar to coat the sides. Using a paring knife, slice the log into about 30 rounds. To prevent the log from losing its shape, turn the log a little with each slice. Working in batches, arrange the slices on a baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between them.


Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining log.


Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.


Nutrition information per cookie: 70 calories; 35 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 4 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 1 g protein; 15 mg sodium.


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This bar cookie has all the makings of a classic summer s’mores — graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow — but with a decidedly more festive sensibility.


We started with a deliciously buttery graham cracker crust, then topped it with a cream and chocolate ganache studded with bits of cooked mango. Then we pulled out all the stops and made fresh marshmallow — it’s much easier than you imagine — also flecked with mango to spread over the top. And to add a holiday kick, we decorated the top with decorating sugar.


The only special equipment you’ll need is a stand mixer and a candy thermometer. The mixer does the bulk of the work of making the marshmallow.


MANGO MARSHMALLOW BARS


Start to finish: 3 hours (1 hour active)


Makes 24 bars


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs


3 tablespoons packed brown sugar


3 tablespoons all-purpose flour


6 tablespoons butter, melted


2 cups chopped dried mango, chopped


1 cup plus 6 tablespoons water, divided


3/4 cup heavy cream


11 1/2-ounce bag milk chocolate chips


1/4-ounce envelope gelatin


1/2 cup granulated sugar


1/3 cup corn syrup


Pinch salt


1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Colored sugar or sprinkles


Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with baking spray.


In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and flour. Stir in the melted butter until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and press to form an even layer. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until toasty and browned. Set aside to cool.


Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high, combine the chopped mango and 1 cup of the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.


Once the crust and mango have cooled, pour off and discard any excess liquid from the mango. Transfer the mango to a bowl, then wipe the saucepan clean.


Return the pan to medium heat. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, then add the chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Stir in half of the mango, then pour the mixture over the crust and spread in an even layer. Refrigerate until completely cooled.


Meanwhile, make the marshmallow layer. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the gelatin with 3 tablespoons of the remaining water. Set aside.


In a small saucepan over medium-high, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons water with the granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 240 F on a candy thermometer.


Pour the mixture into the mixer with the gelatin. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high (be careful not to splash the hot syrup) until cool, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and the remaining half of the mango. Spread the marshmallow mixture evenly over the cooled chocolate layer, then sprinkle with colored sugar or sprinkles. Allow to fully set up, about 2 hours, before cutting into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


Nutrition information per bar: 220 calories; 90 calories from fat (41 percent of total calories); 10 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 22 g sugar; 2 g protein; 55 mg sodium.


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Peanut butter cookies — with that iconic crosshatch pattern pressed into their tops — are a holiday classic for many Americans. But as good as they are, we decided to play with the tradition a bit. We spiked our peanut butter cookies with a “jelly” of finely chopped golden raisins. We also ditched the flour in favor of upping the peanut flavor.


The result is a slightly sweeter and delightfully chewy take on this holiday cookie. And of course we kept the crosshatch.


PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY COOKIES


Start to finish: 30 minutes


Makes 3 dozen cookies


1/2 cup granulated sugar


1 cup golden raisins


1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar


15-ounce jar natural peanut butter


2 eggs


2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.


In a food processor, combine the granulated sugar and golden raisins, then pulse until chopped to small pieces, but not a puree.


In a medium bowl, beat together the brown sugar, peanut butter, eggs, vanilla and salt until thoroughly mixed. Mix in the sugar and raisins until evenly distributed.


Working in batches, scoop 1 tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Use a fork to make crosshatch design on the top of each cookie, slightly flattening them in the process. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until light golden brown.


Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Allow the baking sheet to cool between batches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


Nutrition information per cookie: 130 calories; 60 calories from fat (46 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 14 g sugar; 3 g protein; 35 mg sodium.


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For this cookie, we created a hybrid of two of our favorite treats — fig bars and jam-filled thumbprint cookies. We started with a basic thumbprint cookie dough, but enriched it with the deep flavors of browned butter. And instead of filling it with any old jam, we made a thick, rich fig jam. The result is a delicious and beautiful holiday treat.


The finishing touch on these cookies is a sprinkle of vanilla sugar, which some grocers sell in the baking aisle. If you can’t find it, you can substitute regular granulated sugar or make your own vanilla sugar. To do so, stir together 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste with 1 cup granulated sugar. Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes at 250 F to dry.


BROWN BUTTER FIG THUMBPRINT COOKIES


Start to finish: 2 hours (1 hour active)


Makes 2 dozen cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter


1/4 cup powdered milk


6 ounces dried figs, chopped


1/3 cup orange juice


1/3 cup water


1/2 cup sugar


1/4 teaspoon salt


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or regular granulated sugar)


In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter and powdered milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and nutty in fragrance. Remove from the heat and allow to cool and solidify.


Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the figs, orange juice and water. Cook, stirring regularly, until the figs are broken down and very soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and processor until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely.


When the butter mixture is ready, in a medium bowl combine it with the sugar and salt. Use an electric mixer to beat until creamy and well combined. Stir in the flour until a thick dough comes together.


Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.


To shape and fill the cookies, pinch off a tablespoon of dough. Roll the dough into a ball, then press your thumb into the center to make an indentation. Fill the center with 2 teaspoons of the fig mixture, then arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with vanilla sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.


Transfer the cookies to a rack and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


Nutrition information per cookie: 150 calories; 70 calories from fat (47 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 2 g protein; 25 mg sodium.




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