Here, Cookie Cookie...

Two weeks ago, when this blog got going, I pledged to be your holiday wake-up call. This does not mean I'm wearing tinsel, flashing lights or big red ribbons that already are EVERYWHERE, nor does it mean that I'm encouraging you to get frantic and sucked up by the hype.

For the month of December, there will be no countdown or group nail biting in this here blog. Instead, I'll offer calls to action in a gentle way, a soft nudge if you will. With several holidays to choose from and so many ways to celebrate, the last month of the year is a like a brunch buffet spread. So I'm following the lead of Baskin Robbins and offering up the 31 Flavors of December, with a new flavor rolling out each day. Get your tasting spoons ready.

In preparation -- all I said was preparation, so don't start hyperventilating yet -- I am pulling out the holiday cookie recipe collection. The next few days, while you're still digesting Thanksgiving dinner, is a great window of opportunity to regroup, dust those cards off and review the crumb-worthiness of your cookie lineup from years gone by.


For starters, I'll have a look at Baker's Dozen, 13 tried-and-true recipes from What's Cooking readers last year. Check it out; each recipe has a nifty e-mail-to-a-friend function that spreads the sugary revelry.

And then of course, I'll turn to one of my favorites, Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti, a December staple in my kitchen, for gifts as well as snacks for those drop-in guests and assorted merrymakers.

Again, this short list is just to whet that whistle. The Food section is planning a big cookie issue in mid-December, so stay tuned. Plus, here's your chance to start exchanging cookie recipes, right here, right now. Write it up, (neatness and spelling go a long way!) and place it in the comments field below. I can't wait to see what you've got in those notebooks!

By kimodo |  November 29, 2005; 10:11 AM ET  | Category:  Cookies
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I have a cranberry pistachio biscotti recipe much like yours, which I make every year. It has anise seeds in it, which really make it great. I give those and Maida Heatter's ginger biscotti. Great as presents!

Posted by: Pat | November 29, 2005 02:05 PM

i, too, make cranberry-pistachio biscotti every year to give out as gifts. my recipe does not call for butter. i've tried it both with and without and can't tell much of a difference so i go without and call it a "healthy" snack. i got requests last year to dip them in chocolate, so i guess there goes the healthy part!

Posted by: awads | November 29, 2005 02:19 PM

LOVE biscotti-- this one, from the most recent Fine Cooking holiday issue (not to be confused with the Dec-Jan issue) is TDF... got great raves both from coworkers and from my 5-year-old niece.

Gingerbread Biscotti
Yields about 24 biscotti

10 ounces (2 1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces (1 cup) pecans, coarsely chopped
4 ounces (1/2 cup) lightly packed dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup molasses
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (from about 1 medium navel orange)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nut­meg, and baking soda on medium-low speed until well blended. On low speed, briefly mix in the pecans and apricots. In a measuring cup, lightly whisk the molasses, eggs, and orange zest. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the egg mixture. Continue mixing until the dough is well blended and comes to­gether in large, moist clumps, 1 to 2 minutes.

Dump the dough onto an unfloured work surface. Divide into two equal piles (about 1 pound each). Shape each pile into a log that's 10 inches long and about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, lightly flouring your hands as needed (the dough is a bit sticky).

Position the logs on the lined cookie sheet about 4 inches apart. Bake until the tops are cracked and spring back slightly when gently pressed, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the sheet to a rack and let cool until the logs are cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

Carefully peel the biscotti logs from the parchment and transfer to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, saw each log into di­agonal slices 3/4 inch wide. Return the slices to the cookie sheet (no need for fresh parch­ment) and arrange them cut side down. It's all right if they touch because they won't spread.

Bake until the biscotti are dried to your taste, about 10 minutes (for slightly moist and chewy) to 20 minutes (for super-dry and crunchy). Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack and let the biscotti cool completely. The biscotti will still give slightly when pressed, but will harden as they cool. When cool, store in airtight containers.

Fine Cooking #75

Posted by: Divine Ms. K | November 29, 2005 02:34 PM

Kim, I'm keen to try the cranberry pistachio biscotti, but can you clarify how many eggs to add to the mixture? The recipe says 4, but you only add 2 on the video.

Baffled in Houston

Posted by: Susan B. | November 30, 2005 12:11 PM

Susan B: Please don't be baffled all the way from Houston. Do follow the recipe -- and use the video for in-color guidance!
cheers.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 30, 2005 12:20 PM

Kim, please help! I did't have a chance to submit on your chat. Every year I bake cookies for Christmas and Hanukkah gifts. Last year I baked 1,100 cookies -- 5 varieties -- in 3 days straight. (and I live in a small apartment.) This year I have a problem. I have to give up my 3rd day because of an unexpected work assignment but I can reschedule the baking day later in the week. Usually I bake and ship right away. How can I keep the cookies I make on the first 2 days still be fresh and not stale until I have my 3rd baking day? Usually I put them in airtight containers on my dining-room table. Is this still ok if they're sitting around for 3 or 4 more days? Thanks so much. P.S. Have never made biscotti but I might try it this year!

Posted by: Crazy with Cookies in New Jersey | November 30, 2005 02:13 PM

I read the posting above from the person who said they omit the butter from the recipe for a healthier version. If I do this, what can I substitute- applesauce?

Thanks.

Posted by: Wannabe Biscotti maker | November 30, 2005 03:02 PM

Kim, I'm thinking of making jars of cookie mix with attached directions as Christmas gifts. Can I do these with any type of cookie (obviously leaving out butter/eggs/flavorings)? Are there any types of cookies that are particularly suited to this or ones to avoid? Thanks!

Posted by: Jess | December 1, 2005 12:46 PM

Dear Crazy:
One thing you can do is make batter in advance, wrap really well and either keep in fridge or freezer. If you freeze, make sure you thaw in fridge. Sounds like you'll be resuming the cookie workshop soon after the first blitz, so I would suggest keeping batter in fridge. So on first day, make all the batter for all the cookies. Second day, bake what you can. Third day, bake the remainder, and ship everything. Airtight plastic containers are the best way to keep things fresh, and if it's only a matter of a few days, your little gems should be just fine. Please send a report!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 1, 2005 01:34 PM

Last year I made a savory cheese biscotti, parmesan and cracked black pepper. Alas, I don't have the recipe, I think I may have just looked at a basic biscotti recipe and winged it, it turned into an experiment gone good! Anyhow, this year I want to make them again, and perhaps another savory flavor as well, but now I don't know which recipe I based it off of! Do you have a basic recipe to which I could add cheese and other flavorings without having disasterous results? I would be much appreciative! Thanks!

PS. Cheese biscotti are great with a glass of wine after a hard day at work or shopping!

Posted by: Brooke | December 2, 2005 04:12 PM

for the person looking to sub for the butter in biscotti, don't bother! i just left it out and it was fine. no sub necessary!

Posted by: awads | December 8, 2005 11:26 AM

In the chat on the 8th a reader from Silver Spring asked for help finding a recipie for a rolled cookie:

"They were made of soft dough that would have been rolled out into a thin circle, filled with some sort of sweetly tart, orangey-colored fruit filling, then rolled up and baked that way. No icing or sprinkles I think, and the dough was I believe pretty unremarkable, it was just about that amazing filling."

This might be a stretch, but it reminds me of Rugelach, frequently made with an apricot filling. I'm not sure the filling would outshine the cream chease dough though.

Posted by: Cookie Sleuth | December 9, 2005 10:18 AM

Does anybody have a tried and true sugar cookie recipe? I've tried a couple that I found online at allrecipes.com and they haven't quite measured up to our sweet teeth.

Posted by: CabrioGirl | December 12, 2005 08:38 AM

Re: Tried & True Sugar Cookie Recipe

I have a recipe that I swear by but IT IS NOT a sweet cookie until you put the icing on it. Easy recipe:

Mix 1 stick of Crisco Butter Flavor
with 1 cup sugar, blend well, add 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla, mixing til well blended.

Sift 2 3/4 cup flour with 1 tsp powder and 1 tsp soda and 1/2 tsp salt.

Add this to the wet mixture, may need to use your hands to get it blended completely; if too wet, add a little more sifted flour. Wrap in wax paper and chill atleast 3 hours or overnight.

Roll out onto a floured surface and cut into cookies, bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden.

Remove to wire rack and let cool completely.

Icing - I use the basic 10x sugar recipe (on the box) making it a bit stiffer (use less milk) and if you like add a touch more vanilla (for sweetness).

Spread icing over cookies, sprinkle if you like with colored sprinkles. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in the fridge to chill (or outside if it's really cold). Once the icing it set, you can store them in a container.

HINT: The longer they sit with the icing on them, the sweeter they get. So wait a few days to eat them.

Enjoy and good luck!

Posted by: Southern Md Mom | December 13, 2005 09:36 AM

I need biscotti help, I made the dough for Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti, but I'm afraind that it doesn't have enough flour. It was very sticky and soft - no way could I mix in the fruit and nuts by hand. I measured the flour be weight (4.25 oz per cup). The plan was to make the dough tonight and bake it tomorrow night. Is it worth trying to bake this attempt?

Posted by: smbslt | December 13, 2005 08:22 PM

Additional cookie recipes that are very good - enjoy!

One Bowl Chocolate Bliss Cookies

2 pkgs (8 oz each) semi-sweet baking chocolate, divided

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup butter/marg, softened

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup flower

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.

Coarsely chop 8 of the chocolate squares and set aside.

Microwave the remaining 8 squares of chocolate in large bowl on HIGH for 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add in sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla, stir until well blended.

Add flour and baking powder, mix well.

Stir in remaining chocolate pieces and walnuts.

Drop onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 12 minutes or until cookies are puffed and shiny. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, cool completely on wire rack.

Makes about 2 to 2 1/2 dozen.


Molasses Crinkles

2 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

SIFT together all of the above ingredients and set aside.

With a mixer, combine:

1 cup vegetable shortening (I used crisco sticks, non-butter)

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

and beat until well blended and smooth.

Beat in 1 egg.

Beat in 1/2 cup molasses, dark or light

Add 1/2 the flour mixture and beat on low speed until well blended. Add remaining flour and beat until blended. Scrape down the dough, beat additional 10 seconds. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Leave baking sheets ungreased or line w/parchment paper.

Use a mini scoop and roll the dough into a ball then drop into granulated sugar.

Place on cookie sheet 2 inches apart (they spread slightly).

Bake for 10 minutes or until tops are firm. If you want a crunchier cookie, bake for 12 minutes.

Leave on cookie sheet for 1 minute; transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Posted by: Southern Maryland Mom | December 14, 2005 07:28 AM

So MD Mom,

Thanks very much for the cookie recipes! I'm baking tonight as well as this weekend and am definitely now planning on the One Bowl Chocolate Bliss Cookies. I'm still trying to dig up a sugar cookie recipe (my husband loves those old-fashioned sugar cookies). If I find ones that turns out well I'll post back in case anyone else is interested.

Posted by: CabrioGirl | December 14, 2005 09:32 AM

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