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
I love all the ideas!
In about 10 days I put together my 10th annual "Cookie Party." I don't have pictures (I thought someone else was taking them, but he only took pics of the people!). I made around 1000 cookies! Many of the recipes were given to me by my mom, who has an open house every year in early December. My party was a few weekends ago and this year's menu was:
1. Snickerdoodles with Vietnamese cinnamon (my favorite)
2. Nutella Mexican Wedding Cookies -- I agree that they were a little hard, but had a good flavor.
3. Deluxe Sugar Cookies (Betty Crocker cookbook) -- these are great for icing. We decorated them during the party.
4. Vegan Ginger Spice Cookies -- one vegan came to my party. ;) Delicious! I used candied ginger, ground ginger, and fresh ginger.)
I modified this recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/103156
to make it vegan by using applesauce instead of egg and vegan butter (Earthsmart? Something like that
5. Spritz Cookies -- I have an old cookie press and these are always a favorite. It's a lot of butter!
6. Monster Cookies (oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, m&ms) -- one friend said that it was the "perfect cookie."
7. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
8. Mini Homemade "Oreos" (Retro Desserts cookbook) -- these are fun to make, though I had some problems with the filling because I tried to use an icing "gun" and it kept getting everywhere. It wouldn't stop leaking out of the nozzle!
9. Lemon Coolers -- my least favorite, but my husband's request. I'm still looking for the perfect lemon cookie.
10. Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies -- from my husband's grandmother's recipe
11. Chocolate Butter Cookies with Mint Glaze (Cook's Illustrated, except that in their variation the mint extract was supposed to be in the cookies and I put it in the glaze) -- these were another favorite of mine.
Cookie (but not glaze/mint variation) recipe here: http://www.hipmama.com/node/16944
12. Butterscotch Oatmeal Lace Cookies (Moosewood Desserts cookbook) -- nice flavor, but a bit "blah" compared to the other cookies.
13. Gingerbread Dreidels and Leaves -- I used pastry cutters in leaf shapes to make mini leaf cookies.
14. "Mrs. Field's" Chocolate Chip cookies -- I used walnuts and added peanut butter chips, too. Many people told me these were their favorites. However, most recipes on the internet have oatmeal in them and mine (which my mother gave me) does not.
15. Brownie Cookies -- a nice, fudgy cookie.
"Sweets" but non-cookies:
Globe grapes filled with goat cheese
Almond bark covered Peanut Butter Ritz Bits Sandwiches
Almond bark covered Pretzels
Boy Scout Bars -- RICH
English Toffee (with almonds) -- a new recipe for me and surprisingly simple.
Cranberry Pecan Bars -- this is another one people exclaimed over.
Coconut Rum Lime Banana Bread -- my mother-in-law found this recipe online somewhere. It was great.
Double Decker Chocolate Peanut Butter Marbled Meltaway Fudge -- I adore this fudge. One friend stayed very near this plate the whole time.
Savory non-cookie items:
Artichoke Dip with crackers
Savory Turkey Meatballs in homemade sauce -- some guests come *only* for the meatballs.
Crispix snack mix -- my husband makes this every year
Mini Rosemary Biscuits with vegetarian "chicken" salads (I do different fillings each year
)Frico (parmesan crisps) with cumin
Spicy Cheese Puffs -- these disappeared the fastest
Assorted teas, cocoa, water, wines
Hot Cranberry Tea -- adapted from the book "365 Foods Kids Love to Eat." I make this every year and it's something people ask about before they come. Good plain or spiked with rum or Maker's Mark.
Hot Buttered Rum
Thanks Dommy and everyone for ideas for next year.
Here is my cookie round up for Christmas 2006. Rated from best to worst.
1. Ginger Spice Cookies
Surprisingly uber delicious, addictive, and swooning when I ate them with aged cheddar
2. Mexican Wedding Cookies
I know I made a lot but they disappeared faster than any. Love the dried cherry and pistachio combination.
3 . Orangettes
My absolute favorite dipped in bitter chocolate
4. Miniature Palmiers
They were supposed to be full sized but for some reason they turned out miniature but excellent. I like mini better.
5. Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Addictive and crunchy. Just sub mint chips in the recipe
6. Midnight Rum Balls
Yum, thanks AnneInMpls
7. Nanaimo Bars
It’s the best recipe from the city of Nanaimo website
8. Spoon Cookies
Very good, made with browned butter. Bit of a connoisseur taste.
9. Millionaire Squares
Good, but so so rich. Cut into mini mini squares
Mine was okay, my friend’s was amazing.
Taking chowhounds tips next year.
11. Peanut Butter Balls
Old family favorite. Didn’t use the paraffin as directed which made for a thicker but tastier coating. Cut down on sugar and upped the peanut butter content.
12. Sugar Cookies
Rolled these too thin and almost had a nervous breakdown trying to ice them without breaking the delicate designs.
13. Date Squares
I used orange juice and peel instead of lemon. This is at the bottom of the list because I used regular cut oats. Turned out way too chunky, next time quick oats.
14. Lemon Bars
Bleech, threw these away after tasting one. Terrible texture, taste. Just one complete bomb.
Unfortunately I don't have any pictures :-( In my rush to get everything made, plated and packaged I ran out of time and to be honest, totally forgot! This year:
Thick and chewy chocolate chip from CI (one version w/milk choc and toffee bits, another with dark choc, toasted pecans and coconut - huge, chewy, yummy cookies!)
Shortbread balls with a lemon poppy glaze (a favorite every year - Martha recipe from 2001, I think)
Shortbread balls with craisins, pistachios and white choc drizzel (good, but pistachios were a tad too salty)
Cranberry and hazelnut biscotti (epi - good, not a show stopper)
Chewy molasses cookies w/a dark run glaze (CI - my favorite!)
Mexican wedding cakes w/Nutella (found online, just ok, too hard in texture)
Sugar cookie stars w/sprinkles (Joy of Cooking rich rolled cookie recipe, good, basic recipe, wouldn't go out of my way to make again)
Midnight rum balls from here (very good, needed to set at least a week)
Spiced toffee w/semisweet chocolate and toasted mixed nuts on top (epi recipe, very well received)
Overall it was a good year, not my best. I wanted to make a peppermint moch cookie from CI, ran out of time. Tried to make rughlach (sp?) from CI - total disaster, don't even want to talk about it. Next year I'll be sure to take pictures!
If you haven't tried Maida Heatter's lemon bars, they're my favorite. She has a date variation of it that I made once for a Middle Eastern themed potluck & went over very well.
This year I made
* Christmas brownies from Maida's recipe with finely chopped candied cherry/pineapple (so finely chopped that most people couldn't tell it had fruit ;)
* Wienerstube from Maida's recipe with black cocoa (these have pepper and allspice)
* Raspberry pecan thumbprints from Martha's Christmas book, a longtime favorite (the nuts must be chopped by hand I have found)
* Lemon-pistachio cookies from the MSL Christmas issue (only one person cited this as a favorite)
The most popular were the Christmas brownies and the raspberry-pecan.
Sorry I don't have a picture of this year's cookies.
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).
Below is a (mediocre) picture from last year's production:
Platters to Give:
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.
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/recipe_views/views/2867
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! ;-
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