Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking forward to Next Christmas!

Have you enjoyed the recipes, stories and tips on this blog? Then you'll love our Holiday Goodies blog! We'll post regularly with recipes and traditions about the year's holidays, from President's Day to Valentine's...even to Good Riddance Day! (That one just happened a few days ago.)

Follow us at the Holiday Goodies blog -- and you won't miss a thing. 

And come November or so, the Christmas Goodies blog will start back up...we hope to see you then.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

God Bless Us Everyone

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

"Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Heirloom Week: Lebkuchen

 If any cookie spells tradition in the Brick house, it's a lightly-spiced 'gingerbread' cookie I first tasted at a coffee bar in Nuremberg, Germany, back in my college years. Lebkuchen may remind you of molasses cookies, but they're really a mix of honey, ground nuts and the ginger-related spices. In old times, monks would mix old honey (at least 6 months fermented) with flour, and let the mixture mellow for a few months before baking the cookies. I've tried this, as well, with success. So if your time is limited right now (who's isn't?), mix up the dough, then put it in the freezer. Roll out the cookies a month or two from now, instead, and enjoy them during a winter snowstorm. They're incredible, and worth the extra work.

(Thanks to Epicurious for this basic recipe)

For nut flour
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts (3 1/2 oz)
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds (2 1/2 oz)
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

For cookies
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup mild honey
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fine-quality mixed candied fruit such as citron, orange, and lemon*
  • 4 (11 1/2- by 8 1/4-inch) sheets edible rice paper, cut with scissors into 32 (2 1/2-inch) rounds

For icing
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water

Make nut flour:
Finely grind nuts with remaining nut flour ingredients in a food processor.
Make dough:
Beat together brown sugar, honey, and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until creamy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in nut flour at low speed until just blended, then stir in candied fruit.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Arrange rice-paper rounds, shiny sides down, on 2 large baking sheets. Roll level 2-tablespoon amounts of dough into balls with dampened hands, then put 1 on each paper round and flatten slightly (dough will spread to cover paper during baking).
Bake cookies in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until surface no longer appears wet, about 15 minutes total. Transfer to racks to cool.
Ice cookies:
Sift confectioners sugar into a bowl, then stir in water until smooth. Evenly brush tops of cooled cookies with icing. Let icing set, about 1 hour. 

* Available at Fauchon (212-308-5919) or The Baker's Catalogue (800-827-6836).
Cooks' note: • These cookies improve with age but icing will darken. If making ahead, do not ice until day of serving. Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper, in an airtight container 1 month. 
   Editor's note: Instead of rice paper, the Germans use a round edible disk I heard described as 'gebaken.' Feel free to substitute these, instead. The cookies are also wonderful iced with melted bittersweet chocolate.

Lebkuchen hearts, Santas and other shapes are a favorite at
'Christ Kindl Markts' in Austria and Germany. Photo from Wikipedia; read more about Lebkuchen's origins here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Heirloom Week: Yule Log

The French know it better as "Buche de Noel," a rolled sponge cake confection that's frosted roughly to resemble 'bark,' then decorated with meringue mushrooms, candies...or in this case, gnomes!

 It was one of Julia Child's favorite Christmas desserts on her PBS cooking shows. For one episode, she planned to stick lit Fourth of July sparklers into her cake, just before serving it. The only problem -- the cake hadn't come out well, so they'd frosted a copy of the local newspaper, instead. When she pushed the sparklers in, they bent double and bounced back! (A quick sign-off on that one.)

Marzipan fruit and other shaped goodies make a nice addition, and are more readily available this time of year, especially at places like Trader Joe's or Cost Plus Imports. This quick lesson on Yule Logs may also be helpful before you start cooking:



  • 1/2 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/8 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups whipped cream
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 8 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/8 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon green food coloring
  • 8 ounces marzipan


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 15x10-inch jelly roll pan. Line with waxed paper. Grease paper.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Beat together sugar and egg yolks at high speed until light and fluffy. At low speed, alternately beat milk and flour mixture into egg mixture.
  4. Using clean beaters, beat egg whites at high speed until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Fold one third of beaten whites into batter. Fold in remaining whites. Spread batter in prepared pan; smooth top.
  5. Bake cake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) until set, 12 minutes.
  6. Dust a clean cloth with confectioners' sugar. Turn cake out onto prepared cloth. Remove waxed paper. Trim cake edges. Starting with a long side, roll up cake, jelly-roll style. Transfer, seam-side down, to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.
  7. Unroll cake; remove cloth. Spread whipped cream over cake to within 1 inch of edges. Re-roll cake. Place, seam-side down, on serving plate.
  8. To prepare frosting, in a small saucepan, bring heavy cream, melted chocolate, and butter to a boil over medium heat, stirring vigorously until blended. Remove from heat. Let stand until set. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake.
  9. To prepare garnish, dust work surface with confectioners' sugar. Knead food coloring into marzipan until blended. Using a rolling pin dusted with confectioners' sugar, roll marzipan to a 1/8-inch thickness. Using a small knife, cut out leaves. Arrange leaves, cinnamon candies, and snowmen on top of cake and around plate. Dust with confectioners' sugar.                                

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Heirloom Week: Gingerbread Houses

Any kid, whatever age, would appreciate a spicy, crunchy house on the sideboard, just waiting for post-Christmas munchies. The best place on the 'Net to learn about this art is Ultimate Gingerbread, a website that will help build your own place, from getting out the ginger to frosting that final brick.It also helps you submit your creation for any number of contests!

Here's a basic recipe to get you started. (Thanks, Ultimate Gingerbread.)

Debbie's Gingerbread House Dough Recipe

Comments from Debbie:  I have made a gingerbread house every Christmas since I graduated from college in the late 70s. At first I used to make them and take them home for my cousins to decorate and eat. Then they became great masterpieces that looked like the house I was living in and they had stained glass (lollipop) windows and lights inside (an old Christmas tree bulb rigged up on a cord with a plug). Now I make a house every November with my kids, before the seasonal preparations get too crazy. We put all our leftover Halloween candy on the houses (a great way to use it up!). We have a tradition of having a house eating party on New Years Day, when we invite the neighbor children to sit in the backyard with our kids and break apart the house and eat whatever part they want. Its pretty gross and dusty at that point but it doesnt seem to matter. They never eat that much of it anyway but it is fun to break it apart! This recipe makes a good crisp cookie that smells delicious baking and gets very hard for good strong walls. It hardly puffs at all so you will keep good definition in window holes and doors.

Mix together:
  • 6 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Stir together over medium heat till margarine is melted:
  • 1 1/2 cups Karo Syrup
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup margarine

Add to the flour mixture and blend till the dough is easy to handle, I do it in my Kitchenaid mixer. It's a firm dough and gets harder as it cools. I like to roll it out while it's still warm!
Cut out a front/back wall and a side wall shape from paper. Use the top edge of each of those 2 pieces to make a roof piece, it should be a little bigger so it hangs over the walls. Now line your cookie sheet with heavy duty foil (moisten it to keep it from sliding), spray very lightly with Pam spray, roll 2 1/3-3 cups dough 1/4" thick, use paring knife to cut around shapes and peel scraps off sheet. Cut windows and doors. Leave 1/2" minimum between pieces. Bakes at 350 12-15 minutes, cool on foil. If it puffs at all, you can trim around the windows or edges to make the lines square while it is still hot out of the oven. Once it cools, it is very hard.

Windows (lollipop mixture)
bring to a boil:
  • 1 cup water

remove from heat. Add and stir till dissolved:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup light Karo corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Return to heat. When boiling cover about 3 minutes so the steam can wash down crystals. Uncover and cook at high heat without stirring to 300. Take off heat and let the bubbles subside.

Very carefully spoon or pour mixture into window holes. BE CAREFUL THIS IS VERY HOT AND STICKY. ONLY GROWNUPS DO THIS PART. Have ice water handy in a bowl for emergency first aid. Can be colored but is naturally a nice light amber color.
Royal Icing
  • 2 Tbsp meringue powder (available at cake decorating supply store)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
beat till foamy
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
Beat till stiff and white on high speed for about 5 minutes. Keep bowl covered with a damp towel when not in use. Can be thinned slightly and tinted for spreading to Paint@ a wall. I like to put in a pastry bag and pipe it onto the joints of the house with a star tip #16. Hold the walls in place with cans and bottles from the cupboard. Let the walls dry overnight before you put on the roof.
Let the roof dry overnight before you start putting on the candy. Walls can be decorated before they are put together, let them dry overnight. I put a light on the tray and tape it down before I start construction, then build the house around the cord. Put anything inside the an ice cream cone spread with green icing and covered with sprinkles (for a Christmas tree) or little pieces of lace (on either side of the windows for curtains) before you put the roof on top. Coconut tinted green (shake it in a zip lock bag with green food color and 2 tsp water, spread it out on a cookie sheet to dry) makes great grass, or leftover white frosting makes good snow piled in drifts against the house, or dripping from the roof in icicles. Cookies and cereal and sticks of gum and necco wafers make a great roof. I love this site, what a great place to share ideas! Good Luck! And have fun!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Heirloom Week: Stollen

Germans everywhere would be unhappy with me, if this holiday favorite wasn't included. It's heavy on the dried fruit...and at least to this palate, resembles the Italian Panettone, although it's a different shape. (Deutschers and Italians everywhere, please don't hurt me for saying so!) Try it sliced and toasted, with a light slathering of real butter, for your Christmas morning breakfast.

This recipe is courtesy of, and comes via a professional baker. It's a bit different, for the surprise marzipan center -- omit it, if you don't care for almonds.



  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1/3 cup sultana raisins
  • 1/3 cup red candied cherries, quartered
  • 2/3 cup diced candied citron
  • 6 ounces marzipan   (omit this, if not interested)
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the egg, white sugar, salt, butter, and 2 cups bread flour; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has begun to pull together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead in the currants, raisins, dried cherries, and citrus peel. Continue kneading until smooth, about 8 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  4. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the marzipan into a rope and place it in the center of the dough. Fold the dough over to cover it; pinch the seams together to seal. Place the loaf, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), and bake for a further 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow loaf to cool on a wire rack. Dust the cooled loaf with confectioners' sugar, and sprinkle with the cinnamon.

Heirloom Week: English Christmas Cake

The Brits are passionate about their Christmas cake, a almost-white, almost-fruitcake concoction heavily frosted with thick icing. Miss Read, one of my favorite 'cosy' authors, is forever having her heroines add frosting holly and robins on top! (Maybe yours truly, being a Coloradoan, should add frosting magpies, instead.)

Serve your cake at Christmas tea, along with a good English Breakfast or Prince of Wales cuppa, and you'll be in with the best of 'em. (Maybe even listen to the Queen's annual address, while you sip and crunch.)

This version is adapted from Tasha Tudor's TAKE JOY, a wonderful compendium of recipes, stories and crafts that celebrate the holiday season. Tasha had a thing about candied fruits, and LOVED her butter intake. I'm not fond of greasy pools spreading over the baking pan, so adapted that. Add a cup of candied fruit to this recipe if you're a fruitcake-lover. 

CHRISTMAS CAKE (Colorado style)
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 eggs (no, I'm not making this up)
1 cup chopped almonds, pecans, filberts (your choice)
4 tablespoons orange juice (I also grate a bit of the orange rind in)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
5 cups flour (make this 5 heaping cups if you're cooking at high altitude)
1 cup 'craisins' (dried cranberries -- or substitute raisins, if you like them)
1 cup halved maraschino cherries

Cream butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing as you go, then the other ingredients -- stop before the flour. (It's easiest with two people, but one can manage just fine.) Stir in the flour, a cup at a time, then add craisins and cherries. Mixture will be very thick.
Line your pans with foil -- I can generally get a 10" springform pan, plus 3 or 4 little patty pans out of this, but you might prefer two round cake pans or an angel cake-type pan (the kind with a funnel in the middle). You'll get approx. two round cake pans, or a round (or loaf) pan plus the angel food cake pan. Now 'glop' the mixture into the pans, smoothing on top when they're done. (About half-full)

Bake at 275 degrees for approx. an hour -- my 10" springform took 1 1/2 hours because it was so thick. Cake is done when it's firm in the middle...test by gently pushing against it, or using a toothpick poked in. (Clean means it's done.) Let cool in pans, then fold foil over and store in a cold place for at least a week. (Tasha does it for months, but I have had these spoil when held that long.) Frost with confectioner's sugar, or serve as-is with tea. (The Brits like to add a layer of almond paste on top, then frost it.)
Makes one good-sized cake for you and your dinner companions -- plus a cake for a friend. Intensely rich and memorable.

One sad year, I made a double batch of Christmas cake. It turned out beautifully. I put all of the cakes in a heavy box 'safely' on the back deck. They were -- for about a week. The night before Christmas, they all disappeared...with only a few delectable crumbs left. So if you're stashing your cake, make sure it's protected!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Heirloom Week: Panettone

Thanks to Mangio Bene Pasta for this beloved old Italian recipe! 

Panettone  (Makes 1 large bread)
1 (1/4 ounce) package dry  yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 - 115 degrees F)
1/2 cup flour

2/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup
grappa or brandy
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup warm water  (110 - 115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon vanilla
4-1/2 to 5 cups flour
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped candied citron

To make the starter dough, or sponge, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in a bowl.
Add 1/2 cup flour and stir to make a very loose dough.
Cover the bowl with a towel of plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for at least 6 hours or overnight.
In another bowl, combine the raisins and grappa, and let them soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, eggs, yolks, sugar, 1/4 cup warm water, and vanilla.
Drain the soaked raisins in a strainer set over a bowl; press with a spoon and set aside.
Add the liquid to the egg mixture.Add the starter dough and mix well.
Gradually add the flour, mixing with your hands until a soft dough forms.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Add more flour as needed.
Butter a large bowl, place the dough in it and turn once to coat both sides with the butter.
Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for 6 hours in a warm place.

Butter and flour a panettone mold or other deep mold that is about 6 inches tall and 8 inches wide.
Punch down the dough and transfer it onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough into a large rectangle.
Evenly distribute the orange and lemon zest, raisins, and citron over the dough.
Fold the dough in half to enclose the fruit and knead to distribute the fruit throughout the dough.
Place the dough in the prepared mold, cover with a towel, and let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut an X in the top of the dough with a sharp knife.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F.
Continue to bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Place the bread on a rack to cool for 30 minutes before removing it from the mold.
Be sure that the bread has cooled completely before wrapping it for storage.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Heirloom Week: Sachertorte

This coming week will feature Christmas desserts that have been especially popular over the years -- classics that have come to represent the holidays for their fans. Today: Sachertorte.

One of the things I brought home after a college summer spent in Austria and Germany was a recipe for Sachertorte. This dense, chocolately "cake" uses breadcrumbs, and has a layer of apricot jam between its layers. Then another layer of chocolate is brushed all over the cake. The whole thing is served with a puff of whipped cream ("schlag," unsweetened, if you're doing it the Austrian way) to cut all the richness.
According to Wikipedia, "In 1832, Prince Wenzel von Metternich charged his personal chef with creating a special dessert for several important guests. The head chef having taken ill, let the task fell to his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Franz Sacher, then in his second year of training with Metternich's kitchen. The Prince is reported to have declared, "Let there be no shame on me tonight!" While the torte created by Sacher on this occasion is said to have delighted Metternich's guests, the dessert received no immediate further attention."
    Sacher finished training as a chef, and eventually opened a specialty deli in Vienna. It was his oldest son Eduard, however, who made this cake famous, when he served it at the Demel Bakery, and later at the Hotel Sacher, which he founded in 1876. Since then, the Sachertorte has remained one of Austria's most famous foods.
    Don't let all this fancy rigamarole fool you -- the Sachertorte is actually quite simple to make. It's easiest if you do it in steps -- bake the layers in the morning, then assemble and frost the cake in the afternoon. (Or do it successive days.)  The Brick version has two changes: we substitute raspberry jam for apricot, and the finished cake has a rimmed edge of chopped nuts, preferably filberts.
    There's no better dessert with a cup of coffee or tea. It's the kind of dish meant for a long leisurely talk after supper, with your daughter gleefully spearing the last nutty bits off your plate, and everyone laughing about what the dog did that morning.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia; read more about it here.


1 6-oz pkg chocolate chips (or equivalent fine chocolate bar - the darker, the better)
1/2 cup butter
8 eggs (separate into yolks and whites)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
3/4 cup flour

Melt chocolate chips and butter in the microwave (approx. 1 1/2 min.) In the meantime, get out your commercial mixer and start beating the egg WHITES until they're stiff. (Make a peak when you stop the mixer and lift the blade up.)

By hand, mix the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl #2, add the melted chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the vanilla, breadcrumbs and flour.

Add the stiffened egg whites (gently) to bowl #2, then pour mixture into one greased tube pan, springform pan, or two 9" layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min. (9" pans) to 60 min. (tube or springform) -- cake will be done when firm to the touch, and an inserted toothpick comes out dry. Let cool, then gently release from the pan.


1/2 cup apricot jam (the traditional -- strawberry or any red berry works, too)

1 6-oz. pkg chocolate chips (or equivalent bar)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk or sour cream

Set the jam aside. Microwave everything else until melted (about 1 1/2 min.)

If your cake was baked in a tube or springform pan, slice it in half horizontally. (This is easier to do if it's cool.) Spread jam between layers and-resandwich.

Spread the melted chocolate mixture on top of the cake, taking care to frost around the sides, as well. Keep the top as glossy as possible. (Easiest way to do this is to take a knife dipped in hot water and smooth the top after the chocolate has been iced.)

The traditional finishing was to write 'Sacher' on top in chocolate icing -- but I generally spread chopped nuts on top or the sides. (Filberts are the traditional choice, but who cares.)

Makes 12 slices of incredibly decadent cake. Serve with strong coffee or espresso mit schlag.

Friday, December 16, 2011


These crunchy little cookies are literally shot out of a gun -- a cookie gun, that is. (Fine - some people call it a cookie press!) Fast to make, fun to eat.

(thanks to for sharing)

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups butter softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract


7-8 dozen cookies.


Preheat oven to 350ºF. In bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extract; mix well. Gradually add  flour mixture to butter  mixture; beat until combined. Do not chill. Fill cookie press with dough and with desired disks, press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. (Do not overbake - the cookies should be barely gold.) Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet on cooling rack. Remove from sheet; cool completely.
Editor's note: The Mama usually did not include almond extract in her spritz cookies. Sometimes she added half a package of jello powder, which gave the cookies color and an interesting tang. I remember green (lime) and red (cherry) the most.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Candy's Dandy, But...

Dipped Oreos are WAY quicker!

Normally, yours truly is not a big Oreo fan...but their holiday peppermint version has me swooning with pleasure. It's got a very nice hit of mint, mixed with the chocolate.
    After a day spent making Grandma's sugar cookies, I really longed for a simple cookie that I didn't have to schlep into the oven umpteen times. These are it!


1 package Oreo sandwich cookies (I'd really recommend the mint)
1 package semisweet, dark chocolate or white chocolate chips
any decorations you'd like -- sprinkles, candy cutouts, etc.

Hold onto your seats -- here we go.
Melt whichever chocolate you choose in the microwave. (Approx. 1-1 1/2 min. - watch and stop when it smooths out.) You can also melt it using a double boiler...but the mike's faster.

Dip the cookies in the melted chocolate, using tongs. Place them on a clean counter, or on top of wax paper.

Sprinkle with whatever edible goodies you've chosen.

Let cool, and store in single layers, separated by foil or wrap.

That's it!

And if you're a bit uncertain how they could look, try Home Based Mom's version (half-dipped, biscotti style) and Frugal Upstate's version below, fully dipped. (Frugal made them for Valentine's Day, but they would be gorgeous on a Christmas plate, too. Can't you see them sprinkled with blue sugar and silver dragees for Hanukkah, as well?)

Frugal Upstate's version...nice!

The Secret Sugar Cookie Recipe - Revealed!

Grandma Cumings was famous in our part of Michigan for her wonderful cooking. Casseroles, bread, fried chicken, baked beans and pie all flowed through her capable fingers. And she was willing to share them all, recipe-wise, except one: an amazing sugar cookie that stayed soft and delicious. The recipe had come down to Grandma from ancestors more than a century before...and she was proud of it.

Fortunately, she was willing to pass on the recipe to her children and grandchildren, who made her cookies by the bushelful at Christmastime. My mom would make dozens of sugar cookies, which were then decorated by Little Brother, yours truly and a close group of cousins during one very long day. 
    First, the confectioner's sugar frosting in different colors. (One cousin, a democratic sort, made sure to use a little of every color on each cookie.) Then chocolate chips for snowmen buttons, red cinnamon hots for eyes and lacy edges on stars and bells. Silver dragee balls for shoes and hats. (How come you can't find these much anymore?) And sprinkles everywhere...on the table, our smeary mouths, and the floor. By nighttime and supper, it looked as if someone threw up in rainbows on the kitchen floor!

Now you too can make these wonderful sugar cookies for your cookie platter. 


1 cup margarine (that's what Grandma used - but you can substitute butter)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sour milk  (or use regular milk with a teaspoon of vinegar stirred in - wait 5 min.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (may be omitted)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4-5 cups flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together margarine, sugar and eggs until they're mixed and fluffy. Add everything else and mix - last of all, the flour, added in one cup measures until you've got a moist cookie dough.
    Heavily flour your work area. Thump a large batch of dough in the middle, and sprinkle generously with 1/2 cup flour. (I generally work with a quarter of the batch at a time.) Carefully fold the flour into the dough until it's easier to work without sticking, then roll out thickly (approx. 1/4") on your floured work area. (Add more flour whenever needed.) Cut cookies with whatever cutter you like -- or use a sharp knife to cut diamonds or squares. (A floured glass can also cut circles.)
     Transfer the cookie cutouts to an ungreased cookie sheet, then bake 8-10 min., until the cookies are set and juuuussst starting to turn brown. (This step is very important.)  Do not, if at all possible, let the cookies actually brown. Remove from the cookie sheet, and let cool before frosting.

These are not as sweet as some cookies -- something I actually prefer. You can sprinkle them with sugar, sprinkles or add red-hots before baking, to add sweetness. Or frost and decorate after the cookies are cool. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen. (Store flat in layers, with waxed paper in between -- or if you don't mind a bent leg or busted hat or too, just bung them in the cookie jar.)

Thank you, Grandma!

sugar cookies, ready for the oven

Monday, December 12, 2011

Almond Brittle and Almond Roca

The Mama was the youngest of eight, and nearly every one of those uncle/aunt pairs produced more than five children. By the time I was actually paying attention at our huge Christmas get-togethers, there were an awful lot of cousins to compete with for the contents of Grandma's Christmas candy plate. If I was lucky, a piece or two of brittle was left, along with the peppermints. 
    Try this crunchy recipe at your next holiday shindig, and watch the pieces disappear. (Just make sure the youngest cousin gets a crack at it before the older relatives grab it all.)

Honey Almond Brittle  (thank you,

2 cups sugar
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups slivered blanched almonds
In a heavy bottom saucepan, stir together sugar, honey, salt and water. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until mixture reaches 300°F on a candy thermometer (see Sugar Candy Chart).Remove from heat and add butter and almonds, stirring only enough to mix them in.
Pour mixture out onto a well buttered or oiled marble slab or cookie sheet (with sides). Spread using a spatula or the back of a large spoon until mixture is very thin. Let cool, then break into pieces and store in a lidded container.

For more, visit here.

Almond Roca is hands-down one of The Mama's favorite candies. She's even partial to this version of the chocolate-covered nut toffee:

Almond Roca (the homemade way, thanks to


  1. Over medium heat, melt butter in a large pot.
  2. Add corn syrup, water and sugar to pot and cook until temp reaches 290 degrees OR until the mixture becomes the color of a brown paper bag (about 15-20 minutes) stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (mixture will rise and bubble quite a bit).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in half the almonds
  4. Turn mixture onto a greased cookie sheet with sides
  5. While the mixture is cooling, melt the chocolate over low flame until all the chips are gone, and chocolate is smooth.
  6. Score the almond butter mixture into squares, diamonds or rectangles
  7. Pour the hot chocolate over the almond mixture and spread evenly.
  8. Sprinkle with remaining almonds and allow candy to cool completely and chocolate to harden before breaking apart and serving.

Read more here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

No Truffle At All!

Candy often shares the plate with other Christmas goodies. Why not make them yourself this year? Truffles are one of the best candidates, both for their ease of making, and the delicious results. They literally are no truffle at all!

This excellent  recipe comes by way of Lynn's Kitchen Adventures, a helpful blog for down-home food.


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or 10 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans or chopped Andes Mints
In a medium saucepan, bring cream to a boil; remove from heat, and add chocolate. Let stand 3 minutes; whisk until smooth. Transfer chocolate mixture to a medium bowl, and refrigerate, uncovered, until thick and firm enough to spoon out in mounds, about 3 hours.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Drop level tablespoons of chocolate mixture onto baking sheet. Refrigerate chocolate mounds until firm, about 1 hour.
Place pecans in a shallow bowl. Using hands, roll each chocolate mound into a ball; roll balls in pecans, pressing lightly to adhere, and place on baking sheet. Refrigerate truffles until set, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

More great truffle recipes here.

COMING UP NEXT:   Peanut Brittle and Almond Toffee

Saturday, December 10, 2011


When he was a feisty young bachelor, the Brick would make a pan of brownies every weekend, then sit down and help his brother eat the whole pan-ful while watching Saturday Night Live. He still loves a good brownie...and these, thanks to thirty years of tweaking on my part, are pretty darn good.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/4 pound margarine or butter (1 stick)
8 heaping tablespoonfuls of cocoa
2 teaspoons  vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup flour (a heaping measure, if you live in high altitudes)

Options: 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped nuts


Butter or spray a 9" square or round pan. Microwave butter until melted, then quickly stir in the rest of the ingredients. (This is one baked good you don't want to over-mix, so no worries if it's still a bit lumpy.) Pour into pan -- top with one or both options, if desired -- bake approx. 25 min., until the top is springy when you gently push on it. (Don't check it with a toothpick - it will still be 'dirty.')
Let cool, then cut into 9 squares....or 6, if you're feeling generous.

This recipe doubles beautifully -- use a 9x13 pan. You may want to use 5 eggs instead of 4...but otherwise, just double the ingredients.

Try your brownies with a little icing, as well -- melt chocolate chips (along with a few spoonfuls of milk or sour cream) and spread on top. Bliss.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Can't Put My Finger (Thumb) On It!

But these crunchy, nutty cookies are absolutely wonderful. A hit of raspberry or strawberry jam in the pushed-down center gives them a holiday look and touch of sweetness. (Or try chopped almonds with orange marmalade or peach jam.) These are some of the easiest cookies in the world to make -- but they don't look it. An elegant addition to your next cookie tray!

Thumbprint Cookies:

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (80 grams) hazelnuts, almonds, pecans or walnuts finely chopped
1/4 - 1/2 cup (60 - 120 ml) raspberry jam 

Directions:  Cream butter, sugar, egg and vanilla together, then gradually mix in flour and salt. (Your dough will be quite firm.) Shape into balls, roll in chopped nuts and use your thumb to press down the center of the ball down deeply. Bake at 350 degrees on a greased cookie sheet approx. 12-15 min, until lightly browned. Let cookies cool, then fill with jam. 


Read more:
For a helpful video and more cookie tips, go here. 

(Editor's Note: I'm sorry this blog has been quiet for the past week -- an uncle died suddenly, and I had to make a quick trip back for his funeral service, and help out. The Mama does not believe in the Internet, and I wasn't able to check in too often that way. Back now.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oh, Fuuuuudge.....

It's rich, thick, creamy, and perfect for sending in Christmas packages. (Make it just a few pieces, or your family will be left drooling futilely at the rich chocolatey odor.)

Basic Chocolate Fudge

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus butter, or cooking spray, for pan
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 4 ounces bitter chocolate
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Lightly butter or spray with cooking spray, a 9-inch square pan and set aside.
In a saucepan combine the sugar, salt, corn syrup, bitter and semisweet chocolates, and milk. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Once mixture comes to a boil, do not stir. Any crystals that form on the sides of the pan may be removed with a pastry brush dipped in cool water. Cook the fudge at a boil until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 238 to 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of butter. Cool to warm.
Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat with a wooden spoon until creamy. Pour into the prepared pan and cool completely before cutting into squares. Store fudge in an airtight container.

(Editor's notes: I'll skip the almond extract, but vanilla is essential in this recipe. Cut the sugar down to 2 1/2 cups -- you won't miss it. And chopped nuts, plus a handful of dried cranberries add a delicious grace notes.)

Then there's Paula Deen's
             Dummy Fudge
(You're smart to try it!)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans (any type of nut will work)


Butter a 9 by 9-inch baking dish

Melt chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and condensed milk in double boiler on medium heat. Once smooth remove from heat. Add vanilla and nuts. Scoop into baking dish and chill in refrigerator until set for approximately 10 minutes.

(See here for the whole shebang. Or just abandon yourself and try all 30-plus fudge recipes from the Food's for a good cause!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pie Week: No One Can Say You're A Turkey!

...because you frugally used up the last dribs and drabs of that roast turkey in a crunchy, delicious


  • 1 recipe pastry for a (10 inch) double crust pie
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Roll out bottom pie crust, press into a 10 inch pie pan, and set aside.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add the onion, celery, carrots, parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the bouillon and water. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir in the potatoes, and cook until tender but still firm.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the turkey and flour. Add the milk, and heat through. Stir the turkey mixture into the vegetable mixture, and cook until thickened. Cool slightly, then pour mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Roll out the top crust, and place on top of filling. Flute edges, and make 4 slits in the top crust to let out steam.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and continue baking for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. 

(Thanks to for sharing this recipe and photo -- go to the link for more versions.)

Another meat pie possibility: The tourtiere, or pork pie --Quebec's favorite answer to "what to eat on Christmas Eve." A great recipe and step-by-step diagram is here. If you've got any Canuck, or French Canadian blood running around in your family tree, this is a perfect choice for a holiday brunch!

The classic tourtiere. (Yes, it can be done as 'hand pies,' too.) Go to the link above for specifics.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pie Week: The Nuttiest Of Them All - Pecan

The Brick would never think a Thanksgiving dinner complete without a slice of pecan pie. It brings back memories of his North Carolina home, with rhododendron bushes and warm breezes. (Plus a big scar in the closet, where brother Jim decided to start a fire. Inside the house. No matter - it matches the hole punched in the wall by the brothers wrestling. My poor mother-in-law.)

Making your own "pay-kan" pie is surprisingly easy -- just a few ingredients, stashed in piecrust. Shelling your own pecans will ensure the nuts are fresh. I also rely on butter, rather than margarine - you really can taste the difference, and the extra calories are negligible.
    This version is courtesy of the Pecan Pie Recipe website, which has a whole boatload of variations. I still tend to stick with the traditional one, though -- the Brick insists on it. 


Ingredients -
4 Eggs
1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
pinch of Salt
1/3 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice or Vinegar    (or a shot of bourbon, whiskey or Southern Comfort)
4 tablespoons melted Butter
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2/3 cup Pecan Halves
1 (9-inch) Unbaked Pie Shell
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 2. Carefully crack eggs In a medium bowl, slightly beat eggs with fork.
3. Add corn syrup, salt, sugar, lemon juice or vinegar, butter, vanilla and mix well.
4. Stir in pecan halves.
5. Pour pecan pie mixture into an unbaked pie shell.
6. Bake 35-40 minutes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pie Week: Chocolate Cream Pie

At our church's Thanksgiving supper last night, the gorgeous chocolate pie on the dessert table lasted for about 5 min. Fortunately I'd seen it earlier -- because there were nothing but delectable-looking crumbs left.
    No matter. I can bake my own Chocolate Cream pie, thanks to King Arthur Flour. For more, including tips on baking this pie even better, visit the King Arthur website.
 They know what they're doing!




  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 2 cups milk


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, and salt.

2) Cut in the shortening until it's in lumps the size of small peas
3) Dice the butter into 1/2-inch pieces, and cut into the mixture until you have flakes of butter the size of your fingernail.
4) Add the water, two tablespoons at a time, mixing with a fork as you sprinkle the water into the dough
5) When the dough is moist enough to hold together when you squeeze it, transfer it to a piece of wax or parchment paper. It's ok if there are dry spots in the pile. Use a spray bottle of water to lightly spritz these places; that way you'll add just enough water to bring the dough together without adding too much or creating a wet spot
6) Fold it over on itself three or four times to bring it together, then pat it into a disk 3/4-inch thick
7) Roll the disk on its edge, like a wheel, to smooth out the edges. This step will ensure your dough will roll out evenly, without a lot of cracks and splits at the edges later. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling
8) To blind bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan that's at least 2 inches deep. This will make serving the pie easier after it's finished.
9) Roll out the pastry for the pie to a 13-inch circle. Transfer it to the prepared pan, and trim the edges so they overlap the edge by an inch all the way around. Tuck the edges up and under, and flute them. Put the lined pie pan in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes.
10) Line the crust with foil or parchment paper, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and gently remove foil or parchment with the weights or beans. Return the crust to the oven for 10 more minutes, until it's golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
1) Place the chopped chocolate, butter, and vanilla extract in a 2-quart mixing bowl; set aside.

2) In a medium saucepan away from heat, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt. Whisk in 1/4 cup of cold heavy cream until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of the cream. Whisk in the egg yolks
3) Place the saucepan over medium heat, and gradually whisk in the remaining cream and milk.
4) Bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the mixture thickens; boil for 1 minute
5) Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture over the reserved chocolate and butter.
6) Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
7) Pass the filling through a strainer into a bowl to remove any lumps.
8. Place plastic wrap or buttered parchment paper on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and chill thoroughly.
1) Place the heavy cream in a chilled mixing bowl.

2) Whip until the whisk begins to leave tracks in the bowl.
3) Add the sugar and vanilla and whip until the cream holds a medium peak.
1) Transfer the cooled filling to the cooled, baked pie crust. Level the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.

2) Spoon or pipe the whipped cream on top.
3) Chill the pie until ready to serve.
Variation: Meringue topping
3 large egg whites (reserved from filling)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) water

1) Place the egg whites in a clean bowl with clean beaters. Add the pinch of salt.
2) In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
3) Whip the egg whites until they turn white and the whisk begins to leave tracks in the bowl. Slowly add the hot sugar syrup, and continue beating until the whites make stiff peaks.
4) Preheat the oven to 400°F.
5) Pipe or spoon the meringue over the top of the filled, chilled pie, making sure you cover the filling completely.
6) Place the pie in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the top of the meringue is golden brown. Remove from the oven and refrigerate until ready to serve

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pie Week Begins - With Apple

Pies were made long before the first colonists stepped onto America's shores; we brought our love for meat, veggies and crust with us from our English, Irish and Scottish forebears, as well as many other countries.

It's no wonder then that pie has become a favorite of many holiday tables, including mine. One favorite I grew up with is often considered the king of fruit pies: apple. Our Michigan pies bulged with slices of Macintosh fruit. (Or Granny Smiths or Winesaps, if you liked your pie tart.) Try this recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour, and your apple pie will mirror a long line of tradition.



  • 2 1/2 cups Perfect Pastry Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 7 to 10 tablespoons ice water


  • 8 cups sliced apples
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup boiled cider or undiluted apple juice concentrate                                                          (I'd delete this - makes it a bit too juicy)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, diced in small pieces
  Take a look here for step-by-step instructions, plus photos, to walk you through to your perfect pie. 

Editor's Note: We'll be featuring different pie recipes for the next week, including pork pies, chocolate cream, Key lime and that prince of the south, pecan! (Pronounced "pay-kan," according to the Brick, whose North Carolina roots come out strong this time of year.) Be sure to visit regularly, and see what's up...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Want a cookie that has practically everything going for it? These handfuls of chocolatey/nutty/fruity goodness are actually good for you, too. They're adapted from a cookie recipe that's supposedly from Mrs. Fields. I don't think so, but I experimented some more, then served up the results to the Brick while he was absorbed in the Broncos game. Only a few minutes later, he yelled, "These cookies are TERRIFIC! What's in them?"

Hey, if they can compete successfully with Tim Tebow, that's saying something around here. 

(because they can contain everything but the...)

Turn your oven on to 375 degrees. Mix together in a very big bowl:

2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
5 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla
4 cups flour  (heaping measures, if you live in higher altitudes)
5 cups oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

The easiest way to deal with this pile of ingredients is to wash your hands and dig right in. (A mixer works, too, but you can work out a lot of issues by just squeezing and punching this dough.) Mix thoroughly, taking special care to break up the butter and evenly distribute it through the dough. The dough will be somewhat grainy. (Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of water if it seems too dry.)

Look through your cupboards. Is there fruit going to waste? How about a leftover chocolate bar, or a handful of walnuts? Any of these are fair game for this recipe, including raisins, chopped dried apricots, chopped-up candy, chopped nuts, etc. You'll need approx. 4 cups of chocolate (chocolate chips, chopped bars, etc.), 2 cups of nuts and 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit.  My version used chocolate chips, smashed-up almonds, dried cranberries...and the crushed leftovers from a box of Trader Joe windmill cookies.

Mix these extras into the cookie dough. Shape fist-sized balls; approx. 6-8 will fit on your ungreased cookie sheet. Bake approx. 15 min., or until the cookies are slightly flattened and turning brown on the top and bottom. Shovel off, let cool...and try to restrain yourself from eating a dozen or two.

Makes approx. 3 dozen large cookies. 


A Week of Pies!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Snicker What?!?

Snickerdoodles! The name's silly, but these crunchy, cinnamon-sugar rolled goodies are anything but. And they're incredibly easy to make. Try them hot out of the oven, accompanied by a glass of milk.

CLASSIC SNICKERDOODLES   (makes 40-48 cookies)

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, the eggs and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.
  3. Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove immediately from baking sheets.

(Cook's note: these freeze beautifully, either as baked cookies or balls of dough. In the case of the latter, wait to roll them in cinnamon-sugar until they've thawed a few minutes. Then proceed as usual.)

See the snickerdoodles on the plate in the previous post, accompanied by their chocolate chip buddies.

Got a favorite cookie you can't find the recipe for? We're hot on the trail! Just leave a comment, and the Christmas Goodies staff will go into full bloodhound mode. (Plus we'll put Charley the dog's famous sniffing nose to the task.) Found recipes will be featured in upcoming posts.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies - The Workhorse of the Cookie Jar

Chocolate Chip -- people love them. Yet this cookie has a fairly recent origin, compared to its sweet brothers and sisters. In the mid-20th century, the manager at the Toll House Hotel was making cookies -- but had nothing to put in them but chocolate bars. Rather than melt the chocolate, she chopped the bars up into little bits and stirred them into the cookie dough. Voila: a new classic. This is her original recipe:


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts


PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

* May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet): Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.

     Editor's note:   I live at 6250 feet, and don't make these adjustments -- but I DO use heaping measurements of flour, which seems to solve the problem. Also, cooling the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking keeps the cookies from spreading too much. 

For more tips and tricks on making this terrific cookie, check out Stephanie Vardovas's "secrets of really good chocolate chip cookies."

A nice plate of chocolate chip cookies is nothing to be sneezed at. (The recipe for the Snickerdoodles accompanying their choc chip buddies is coming soon.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pumpkin Pie...Oh My

If any one pie transcends Thanksgiving, it's pumpkin -- made from squash, one of the few vegetables the Pilgrims could manage to grow in their short seasons, and store for the winter. Sometimes old-time cooks would make a dozen or so pies, then box them up and leave them to freeze in an unheated shed. Pulled out and baked, they made any fall evening special. (We recommend you use a freezer, instead!)
   (Thanks to Land O' Lakes for getting it started)


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold Land O Lakes® Butter
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water


2 eggs
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup milk (if you like your pie sweeter, add condensed milk, instead)
1 (15-ounce) canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and a dash of cloves
    (or just stick to the cinnamon or nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon salt


Heat oven to 425°F. Combine flour and salt in large bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in enough water with fork just until flour is moistened. Shape dough into ball; flatten slightly.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface into 12-inch circle. Fold into quarters. Place dough into ungreased 9-inch pie pan; unfold, pressing firmly against bottom and sides. Trim crust to 1/2 inch from edge of pan. Crimp or flute edge. Set aside.

Beat eggs at medium speed in large bowl until thick and lemon-colored. Add all remaining filling ingredients; beat until well mixed. Pour filling ingredients into prepared crust. Bake for 10 minutes.

**Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.

To serve, top each serving with dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle with additional ground ginger, if desired.

(Freezes up to 6 months - bake without thawing, starting here**)

And try the original recipe here, along with a Ginger Whipped Cream addition