Worth the Work


This represents only part of the cookie spread on Christmas Day - I put out a second tray of assorted cookies as well as a plate of frosted sugar cookies and 10 take-home cookie jars.

The sugar cookies with the terrible margarine frosting were, naturally, the first to go, but most of the cookies were a hit with the family. Surprisingly, the cinnamon and nutmeg-scented pizzelles turned out to be the stars this year. Not a one was left on the tray, and one of my brothers even asked if I had more somewhere.

I had enough cookies leftover to make a second tray for New Year's Eve and to send a box to out-of-town relatives, in addition to keeping a dish out for our own snacking post-Christmas. But by the time I left Erie for Seattle, there were no cookies left in the house.

If you too have relatives who love nothing more than a sugar rush, here's the recipe for frosting made famous by my mom, taken from her Betty Crocker cookbook. No time like the present for getting ready for next year!

Vanilla Frosting
Source: Betty Crocker
Yield: Enough to frost a two-layer cake

4 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup margarine or butter [Butter is better, but my family revolts if margarine is not involved.]
2 ¼ teaspoons vanilla
About 3 tbsp. milk

Beat sugar and butter, then add vanilla and milk.

Merry Christmas!

I know, I know, the pretzel cookies are late coming - I will get a recipe up this year, for sure, and post-post it for Christmas Eve. Look for it!

For now, I wish everyone a very merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a late joyous Solstice, and an early happy Kwanzaa!

Enjoy your holiday! I wish you love and cookies.

Cookie Calendar: Pretzel Cookies


Here's another variation on plain old icebox cookie dough. The recipe calls for vanilla or chocolate dough - I assume because they look most pretzel-like - but I substituted my extra fruit-flavored cookie dough.

You'll notice in the pictures that my cookies are not even remotely pretzel shaped. I elected to make this a kid project at our cookie-decorating party, so I let the dough get very soft. Part of the problem was timing: The dough sat around outside the fridge waiting for us to be ready for it too long. Still, part of the problem was that I feared the kids wouldn't be able to roll snakes with cold dough, and so I took the dough out earlier than I would have for myself.

The kids did easily roll the dough into snakes, but the snakes fell apart when we tried to bend them into shapes. I settled on making looped ribbon shapes with the remaining dough.

I also neglected to make the egg white glaze. I don't know if this negatively affected the luster of the finished product, but it didn't seem to affect the ability of the sparkling sugar to stick where it managed to hit the dough.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

My comments in [brackets].

pretzel-cookies.jpgPretzel Cookies
Source: The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
Yield: 3 dozen pretzels

1 recipe Vanilla Cookie Dough or Chocolate Cookie Dough [or Fruit-Flavored Cookie Dough], chilled
Egg White Glaze
Coarse sugar or pearl sugar [You can find Swedish pearl sugar at Ikea, at least around Christmas.]

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

2. Break off a piece of dough the size of a table tennis ball. On a very lightly floured work surface, shape it into a rope about 10 inches long. Form the rope into a pretzel and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Brush each pretzel with the egg white glaze and sprinkle with coarse or pearl sugar.

3. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until they feel firm. Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

Egg White Glaze

1 large egg white
1 tablespoon water

Whisk together the egg white and water until slightly foamy. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cookie Calendar: Marble Cookies


The next couple of recipes are variations on icebox cookie dough. We've already covered pinwheel cookies made with vanilla and chocolate doughs, and we also discussed whipping up fruit-flavored cookie dough. Now, we consider what else to do with all this dough!

Note that these recipes do use King Arthur Flour's recipes for vanilla and chocolate icebox dough. You can find the recipes for those doughs on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review web site.

I whipped up these marble cookies using half the fruit-flavored dough I'd made (I saved the rest for tomorrow's pretzel cookies). I didn't set out to make marble cookies, but when I saw just how many hours checkerboard cookies entailed, marble cookies looked just so enticing.


Besides, marble cookies look a lot more like the "play-dough cookies" they sell at bakeries. Surprisingly, the dough does not get muddy looking from all the twisting and folding; each color remains distinct. The effect is elegant, much like the real deal, yet requires much less effort than either checkerboard or pinwheel cookies.

One warning: A lot of guests weren't too keen on the fruity doughs' flavor. I heard it compared to Trix cereal; I can't verify that as I've never tried Trix. There is a distinct Jello tang to the cookies. It might be less noticeable if you didn't mix two fruit-flavored doughs like I did.

It also might stand out less if you hadn't let your red dough sit in the fridge for more than I week like I did. Live and learn.

My comments in [brackets].

Marble Cookies
Source: The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
Yield: 4 dozen cookies

Prepare 2 recipes of cookie dough in different flavors -- vanilla and fruit, or vanilla and chocolate, for example. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper on a work surface. Lay 1 piece of dough on the parchment and roll it into a 12- by 9-inch rectangle. Set aside.

Using another piece of parchment or wax paper, roll the other piece of dough just slightly smaller than the first, into an 11 1/2- by 8 1/2-inch rectangle. Brush the Egg White Glaze [see below] over the larger piece of dough.

Tear the smaller piece of dough into irregular shapes and place them haphazardly onto the glazed dough. [The pieces can be stacked on top of each other.] Fold the dough in half crosswise, give it a quarter turn, then fold in half again. On the second fold, gently twist the dough as you fold, as though you were wringing out a cloth; this will increase the marbling effect. It will look messy, but that's OK.

Roll the dough into a log, smoothing the outside, wrap in plastic wrap or parchment and freeze until firm [about 30 minutes is fine].

Use a sharp knife to gently cut the log into 1/4-inch slices. If the dough becomes too soft to handle, place it back in the freezer briefly. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the cookies feel firm. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Egg White Glaze

1 large egg white
1 tablespoon water

Whisk together the egg white and water until slightly foamy. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cookie Calendar: Chocolate Fudge


Fudge may be stretching the definition of "cookie" a bit, but if The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion can define brownies as a cookie category, than I can throw fudge in as a no-bake bar cookie.

Many people might not even recognize Alton Brown's fudge recipe as "fudge" since it involves no evaporated milk or Velveeta. Processed milk products and chocolate chips make a very-similar-to-fudge candy easy to produce, but most of us wait to get the real deal from a specialty shop.

I certainly can't blame 'em. It takes a long time to produce this confection, waiting for it to hit the correct temperatures and then beating in enough air to turn it from chocolate to fudge. I'm not sure myself if our fudge turned out as it should, but for now it least, it looks good!

Later: Though I stuck the fudge in the freezer to force it to harden, it still turned awfully soft the moment it started to warm up. I put the cut-up squares bag in the freezer to harden again, but they still turned to mush after 15 minutes at room temperature.

I can think of two possible reasons: One, perhaps I didn't whip enough air into the fudge (it did still look a bit shiny); two, maybe it was too humid a day for fudge. The latter seems unlikely in a dry, heated house in the middle of winter, but the results I got seem a lot like what happens to candy makers on wet days.

chocolate-fudge01.jpgChocolate Fudge
Source: Alton Brown
Yield: 64 one-inch pieces


2 3/4 cups sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped, roasted nuts, optional

Grease an 8 by 8-inch pan with butter. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, chocolate, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter, half-and-half, and corn syrup. Over medium heat, stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved and chocolate is melted. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove the cover and attach a candy thermometer to the pot. Cook until the thermometer reads 234 degrees F. Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter. Do not stir. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes or until it drops to 130 degrees F. Add vanilla and nuts, if desired, and mix until well-blended and the shiny texture becomes matte. Pour into the prepared pan. Let sit in cool dry area until firm. Cut into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Allrecipes' International Cookie Countdown

Allrecipes, compendium of homestyle recipes culled from everyday people, has put together an intriguing collection of Christmas cookies from all over the world. They're counting down the 25 days to Christmas as well, which puts them at cookie number 22 today, but you can scroll back to see everything featured so far.

Makes me wish I lacked both my nasty cold and the foot of snow outside the door so I could do a whole lot more baking in the next couple days.

Cookie Calendar: Snickerdoodles

cookiecalendar.jpgHands down, these were my favorite cookies when I was a kid. Soft and buttery with a hint of cinnamon, and sporting a crazy name like "snickerdoodles" - what wouldn't a kid love?

On top of all that, snickerdoodles require shaping the dough into balls and then rolling the balls in cinnamon sugar, a step perfect for kids who like helping in the kitchen. I loved helping in the kitchen, and I'd often beg to make snickerdoodles just for the chance to roll the dough.

My usual recipe growing up came from the Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook, which looked a lot dorkier than the version they're selling today. I read that cookbook, full of pictures of kids from the '70s, over and over again, feeding an obsession with cooking that I never grew out of.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens
Yield: 36 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. In a medium mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 cup sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

2. In a small mixing bowl combine the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in the sugar-cinnamon mixture to coat. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 10 to 11 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool.