Holiday Cookie Baking Report 2006! Cookie Bars!
Remember a few weeks ago when I went all crazy and came to this board crying about Cinnamon Chips for my Spicy Pumpkin Bars that would be featured on my annual Holiday Cookie Plate, this year themed “Cookie Bars”... And then like a week later, triumphantly, I cam here to announce that I found them... yeah, that good times...
And in the end, I didn’t even use the darn things! :P I ran out of time. * Sniff* But as it turns out I didn’t need to... as with most cooks here I’m sure, I got overly ambitious in this project and in plating the cookie bars, I actually made one cookie bar too many already!! Ack!! And so, I am happy to finally report on the cookies that DID make it on the plate... starting with the very holiday appropriate...
Cranberry Lemon Squares: I had such high hopes for these because I LOVE lemon bars, I adore Cranberry and the crust was made with Flour, Powdered Sugar and Flour, ONLY... But despite this, the lemon topping really wasn’t a curd. The cranberry Filling was a bit too watery and sweet. Because of this the bar was very sweet and a little messy...
Black Forest Bars: I got this recipe from a friend. Much to my dismay, I saw it was made in pretty much the same way as the Cranberry Lemon Squares. However, it came together much better. The crust was indeed a nice dense Blackforest cake made with dark chocolate and coconut. Then the boiled down filling was spread on for a final bake. In all honestly these bars were pretty darn good, but for some reason I think the Folks didn’t like the look of them, and I had to toss quite a few at the end of the day.
Chewy, Chunky Blondies: With two duds, this is when I started to turn the corner. I’ve already written a report about these. But out of all the cookie bars, these were the most like Cookies. Soft, Chewy, had this warm brown sugar and buttery edge. A great alternative to the last two chocolate based recipes...
Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars: This was the only returning champ to the Cookie Plate, my favorite brownie ever, the Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars from Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill. Like most of these cookie bars, it starts with a ‘crust’ this crust is more like a base, made of wonder bread that is spiked with pecans and Mexican chocolate. Then the top filling of these bars is like pecan pie, but with big chunks of dark chocolate. Of course they are heavenly still warm from the oven all melty. But they are also good cooled the next day when they are still moist and very chocolately.
Buzz Bars: My favorite Brownie, wasn’t the “favorite’ of the plate. Nope, there is always a king at the end of the day of cookie plates, and that king was LA Times’ Buzz Bars, Expresso Brownies. Perhaps it was the 70% Chocolate, perhaps it was the 2tbs of Expresso, Perhaps it was the Kahlua. I dunno what it was, but these brownies were all gone an HOUR after I set the plate out and got the most requests in terms of “I HAVE to have that recipe!!” These brownies were chocolately, super moist and fudgey (only bake for 25 minutes) and had just enough coffee edge to them to give them a kick without it being too overwhelming. Even when SO, who generally avoids coffee had a bite, he said with deep lust “Oh no, we have to do these again.” And so, I definitely will! :)
And finally the whole plate!! I had a co-worker buzzing around me the entire time I was setting up... SO it didn’t stay so pretty for so long....
Even though I got a couple duds in there, overall I was very happy how it all turned out and everyone in the office loved the treats! Also If you’d like the recipe for the Buzz Bars or the Black Forest Bars youself, please e-mail at pmgon AT aol.com. Also if you have a holiday cookie report of your own... PLEASE post! :) I'll need some new ideas for next year
Beautiful cookies (I think the Black Forest Bars look delicious, but it's the pecan ones that have me salivating). My cookie plate was not quite as ambitious, but I had some hits this year. Mind if I share?
Clockwise from the top, cranberry pistachio biscotti. I used the Cook's Illustrated recipe for honey lavender biscotti (no butter), skipped the lavender, added toasted pistachios and dried cranberries and dipped in white chocolate. These were a great texture and flavor -- the chewy cranberries and pistachios were a nice contrast to the crisp cookies. These weren't my number one favorite, but my husband loved them.
Panforte (on the right, with the hazelnuts). I baked this in loaf tins this year for easy slicing, and although it wasn't traditional, I liked it. I used candied orange peel and lemon peel (bought on amazon from Berry farms, pretty good quality), dried calimyrna figs, prunes, toasted hazelnuts and some slivered almonds. I also upped the spices and used droghe instead of pumpkin pie spice (mixed myself). This was fantastic. Panforte is one of my favorite holiday confections, and most recipes call for overbaking. This was perfect. It was more of a panforte nero, and I used cocoa and spices to coat it.
I used the recipe from Dede Wilson's Baker's Field Guide to Christmas Cookies, and while the flavor was fabulous (lots of cardamom and ground candied peel) they were a bit dry this year (I've made them for the past 3 years). It might have been that we had a pretty dry December in L.A., weatherwise, or my almonds might not have been moist enough (I think I used toasted ground almonds -- that may not have been the right approach for this recipe.) I'll try again next year.
Another Wilson recipe, and kind of a PITA to make, though tasty (what can I say? I love cookies!). Basically, you make a meringue, fold in ground almonds, cinnamon and lemon zest, roll them and cut them and frost with some reserved meringue. They were VERY sweet, and while I liked one or two, they weren't as unique as I anticipated (I don't know why I didn't read meringue with almonds= macaroon!). I might try a variation with different flavoring, but I don't think they'll be a repeat. Still they were a nice addition, and more interesting cut out cookie than sugar cookies.
Finally, in the middle, and the most "cookie" cookie was my friend Karen's molasses cookies. These are just great cookies for any time of the year, and the recipe makes a mammoth amount. Mine weren't as chewy as hers are -- I might try baking them a bit less next time, or letting them cool on the pan, but they were still terrific - crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle.
Recipe posted here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/340873
I like the idea of doing all bar cookies- fun way to try a bunch of different recipes and not as much work either (usually anyway!)! The Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars look and sound fabulous! (I adore Mexican chocolate in any form!)
Well, I already reported on my after Christmas successes, but I did do a few before/ during Christmas as well. I made two recipes from The Good Cookie: Toffee Pecan Cookies and Chocolate Cranberry Spice Cookies w/ white chocolate chunks, the first being fantastic, the second being eh... kind of a weird combo of flavors. I was most excited about making the second one, but I would not make them again, huge disappointment. I also made AGM/CapeCod's lemon stars, but mine were actually trees because that was the only cookie cutter my MIL had! Everyone loved these; I try to do a lemon cookie every year because my grandma LOVES anything lemon. I was actually running out of time on Christmas Eve, so I brought the un-sandwiched cookies and the lemon curd with me to my great aunt's to finish them... my grandma kept dipping her sandwiched cookies in the curd! It was too funny!
I also had two other sorta cookes that I was pretty proud of this year. I made peanut butter cups for my FIL because his favorite thing in the whole world is Reese's Peanut Butter Cups- these turned out wonderfully! Everyone loved the filling- at least the people he was willing to share with with! ;-)
Recipe here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...
The other ones were dog biscuits! I made Miss Kitty's Dog Biscuits, also from The Good Cookie. I made them for my husband's aunt's chihuahua, Miha, so I made itty bitty ones and I made them for bigger dogs too- in fact, I just got a thank you note from my aunt's dog today! (That's right, you read that correctly!!) And no, I'm really not one of those animal freaks, it was just something fun to do! They received rave reviews from all the doggies! ;-
Congratulations Dommy! the plate of cookie bars looks fantastic! What a great idea, an assortment of cookie bars, I just may have to do something similar next year, thanks for sharing the recipes and your terrific photos!
This year I wasn't inspired to bake cookies for the holidays. Last year I made brazil nut squares, gingerbread cookies and experimented (successfully this time!) & made green tea shortbread cookies (just added some green tea powder to recipe). But I'm getting some inspiration here, and for next time will also study a book I have: 201 Brownies & Bars, by Gregg Gillespie.
Here's a couple links to the cookies and candy I made this year:
The buttercrunch I make every year. I had some problems with it last year--due to using cheaper butter, I think--but this year it all went well--and it went fast!
The chocolate malted cookies were in Martha's cookie magazine last year and are a hit every time I make them. This time they were much crispier, which I liked as a contrast to the soft filling, but most people seemed to like the more whoopie-pie-like cookies that have resulted in the past. Either way they're still good, though a bit time intensive.
The triple chocolate peppermint cookies were based on a Martha recipe, but I added mini chocolate chips and stirred in all of the peppermint pieces (which are a PITA to break up btw) instead of using some inside and some on the top. I probably would have been better off doing the peppermint the right way, but the cookies tasted pretty good. Note, whenever I do Martha cookies recipes, I always end up with wayyy more cookies than she lists. Next time I won't double this recipe.
The cran-orange shortbread cookies use the Barefoot Contessa's shortbread cookie recipe in her first cookbook. It's a great recipe that I play around with a lot, but I think next year I'll just leave the cookies plain--cran-orange is a love of mine, but it's not everyone's first choice.
The praline cookies, from an online source I can't think of right now, were good but almost over the top. Last year I made pralines by themselves, and that was plenty--having a cookie underneath makes one cookie a significant snack, lol. They were tasty, but I think the praline part is plenty.
The molasses cookie recipe I got from someone on here. My mom loooved these cookies, and I agree they were very good.
I had several other recipes I wanted to make too, but I just didn't have time--and really, that might have been too much, lol! Am I the only one who's started planning for the next holiday baking season?
I've made those praline cookies (top 5 in MSL mag a few years ago) and they are delicious. I didn't have time to make Christmas cookies this year (tears inserted here).