cookies

Chocolate Oat Bars

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Back in the day — when I was a kid, that is — my brother and I walked home from school at 3:00 and knew it was our responsibility to practice the piano (our teacher required an hour a day), do our homework and get dinner ready.

Ours was a working Mom; she taught us how to set the table; she prepared the food and we put it in the oven at the appropriate time.

She was responsible for making sure there were cookies and milk when we got home — to feast on before said chores and stuff.

Sometimes she left us store-bought cookies. I have memories of fig bars, Hydrox and shortbread.

But mostly she baked. Butter cookies. Peanut butter cookies. Oatmeal-Raisin.

By the time I had my own children, life was very different. They took a school bus home and walked down the hill to our house. I was a working Mom, but my job as a food writer meant I worked at home.

I didn’t usually give them cookies and milk. Food styles had changed, so snacktime meant granola bars or those peanut-butter filled cheese crackers (I bought those because I mistakenly thought they were healthy). Sometimes a frozen burrito.

Looking back — I really like the milk and cookies thing. I miss those days. I miss the milk and cookies. Especially the dunking of cookies in the milk and then trying to bite off a soft milk-drenched piece before it fell into the bottom of the glass.

Cookies really are much better than frozen burritos and peanut-butter filled cheese crackers.

So, for all the parents of all the kids who are coming home from school now that the new term has begun — here are some cookies to consider for snacktime after school, before the piano practice or homework or whatever they have to do before the day is done.

Chocolate-Oat Bars

Cookie layers:

  • 1 cup butter

  • 2 cups packed brown sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

chocolate layer:

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15-inch x 1-inch jelly roll pan.

To make the cookie layers: beat 1 cup of the butter with the brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and well blended. Add the eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and blend them in thoroughly. Add the oats, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Beat for 1-2 minutes or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the prepared pan.

To make the chocolate layer, place the condensed milk, chocolate, butter and salt in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2-3 minutes or until the chocolate has melted. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and raisins. Spread this mixture evenly over the cookie layer. Sprinkle with the remaining cookie crumb mixture. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool and cut into squares.

 Makes about 48

 

 

Zucchini Bread

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When we were first married, Ed promised me 50 years. That was in 1969. We were young and 50 years seemed like a REALLY REALLY long time.

Grandparent stuff.

But here we are. A few months short of 50.

Wasn’t it yesterday that I fit into that long white dress?

We wanted to celebrate with two other couples, all close friends, who are also at 50.

But we didn’t want to have a big party. Not even an intimate dinner party for six. Although those are lovely, it seemed like the same-old, same-old. 50 years deserved something special.

So we decided to have a 150th Anniversary Afternoon Tea.

It was festive, fun and celebratory.

We started with champagne and tea sandwiches.

Then: scones, clotted cream and jams.

Finally, dessert: several kinds of cookies, Lemon Buttermilk Cake, Pumpkin Spice Cake and this: Zucchini Bread, (made with zucchinis from my garden!).

Just us 6. It was a good day.

We all talked about how amazing it is at how quickly 50 years go by.

Zucchini Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups grated fresh zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Place the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk the ingredients until they are evenly distributed. Place the brown sugar, sugar, eggs, applesauce and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Fold in the zucchini. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert the muffins onto the rack to cool completely.

Makes one loaf

Frozen Dough Hamantashen

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I’ve made all sorts of hamantashen over the years. Cake dough. Cookie dough. Pie dough. With all sorts of fillings from old fashioned apricot, prune and poppy seed to nouveau halvah and chocolate mousse/chocolate chip.

I’ve experimented with savory goat-cheese and chili fillings and also barbecued brisket. I even created a recipe for lamb-in-phyllo hamantashen with lemon-tahini sauce. That recipe won an award in a contest sponsored by Soom Foods.

But, to be honest, I like traditional, sweet, mostly apricot or prune hamantashen the best. And this year I read about frozen-dough hamantashen in a post by Melissa Wilkenfeld whose blog, Little Kosher Lunch features kosher lunch-box meals for school kids (I also follow her on Instagram).

So I used her recipe to bake a pile of hamantashen, which were so good it hurt to give any away. But I actually always give food away to my usual “tasters” — all of whom gave high marks to these.

I don’t have enough left for Purim so I will have to make some more. Which I will, because these are awesome.

I asked Melissa for permission to post her recipe. She agreed, also telling me she got the recipe from a friend (Patti Golden).

So, ladies, thank you both for this recipe. A keeper. I’ve changed the language to conform to the way I write recipes, but otherwise, it is yours. Mazal tov.

Happy Purim.

Frozen Dough Hamantashen

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 -1/4 cups flour, sifted

  • milk, water or egg white for sealing

  • Lekvar or jam 

Beat cream cheese, butter and salt in an electric mixer set at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until smooth and thoroughly blended (or in the food processor with the plastic blade attachment). Gradually mix in the flour on low speed until the dough is a uniform color and pulls together into a ball. 

Form dough into 4 balls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 3 or 4 hours, or overnight. 

Remove one ball of dough and roll out on a floured surface until thin, about 1/8 inch thick.

Cut out circles with a cookie cutter (or use the floured rim of a drinking glass or jam jar). 

Place about one teaspoon of lekvar or jam in the center of each round.

Moisten the edge of the circle with milk, water or egg white.

Fold up three edges of the circle to form a triangular base, pinching at the corners to secure.

Place the filled hamantashen on an ungreased cookie sheet. Reroll scraps of dough to make more hamantashen. Repeat with all balls of dough.

Refrigerate the hamentaschen until ready to bake, at least 30 minutes after shaping.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until delicately browned.

Cool on racks.

Makes about 4 dozen 

Fruit Roll Cookies

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Our family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but we do celebrate cookies, which are as ubiquitous during the Christmas season as doughnuts during Hanukkah and matzo balls during Passover.

Every December I make a load of cookies. I give most of them away as gifts, but of course, keep (in the freezer) a container or two of family favorites for us.

Depending on how much time I have, I make these oldies but goodies: Fannies, Grand Finale cookies, Dutch butter-almond cookies, peanut butter cookies, lemon bars, cheesecake cookies, Chinese cookies and Orange Marmalade cookies.

Last year I added these Fruit Roll cookies, based on my mother’s wonderful “frozen dough” nut roll. They were a big hit, so I’m going to make them again this year.

Fruit Roll Cookies

Dough:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1/2 pound butter, cut into chunks

  • 1 cup dairy sour cream

Filling:

  • 2 cups mixed diced dried or candied fruit (such as cherries, pineapple, orange peel, cranberries, apricots, dates, figs

  • 1 cup raisins

  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 cup orange marmalade

To make the dough: place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the butter and beat at low speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is crumbly (you may also do this by hand or using the pulse feature of a food processor). Add the sour cream and mix it in to make a smooth, uniform and slightly sticky dough. Dust the dough with flour, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

To make the filling: Place the dried fruit, raisins, nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the marmalade and mix it in to coat all the fruit.

To assemble: Lightly grease a baking sheet. Cut the dough into 5 pieces. Working separately with each piece of dough, roll the dough on a floured surface to a rectangle about 12-inches by 6-inches. Place 1/5 of the filling on each rectangle, forming the mixture into a strip along one of the long sides and to within 1/2-inch from the ends of the two short sides. Roll the dough and place each roll, seam side down, on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Score each roll along the top with a sharp knife at 1-inch intervals. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, let cool, then cut along the score lines.

Makes about 60

 

President's Cookies

Before there was such a thing as President's Day or President's Week, there was Washington's birthday, which was a school holiday on his real birthday, February 22nd. If you lived in the North, like in New York and Connecticut, you also got a day off on Lincoln's birthday, which is February 12th (the poor kids in the South weren't so lucky, although maybe they got Jefferson Davis' birthday off).

On Washington's birthday, everybody celebrated with cherry pie or cherry something else because supposedly Washington chopped down a cherry tree and didn't lie about it when someone asked if he did it.

Lincoln's birthday didn't have any particular food because he supposedly was a fussy eater and didn't like much of anything in particular.

At some point Mondays became an official holiday for most holidays and Washington and Lincoln's birthdays were merged into one big celebration and an entire week vacation from school.

I suppose that's progress.

Along the way, I discovered that Lincoln actually did have some favorite foods. Like sorghum, which is a sweet syrup similar to molasses. And he liked ginger cookies.

And so, in honor of Lincoln's birthday (which was on February 12th but will be celebrated on the 19th), whenever you celebrate and for how long, here's some sorghum-based ginger cookies to celebrate with. And by the way, if you don't have sorghum, you can use molasses instead.

 

Sorghum Ginger Cookies

  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 laarge egg
  • 1/4 cup sorghum syrup
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Combine the shortening, coconut oil and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well combined (about 2 minutes). Add the egg and sorghum syrup and beat until well blended. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg and beat until the dough is well blended, smooth and uniform in color. Take off small pieces of dough and shape into small balls about one-inch in diameter. Roll the balls in the remaining sugar to coat the surface. Place the balls on the prepared cookie sheet, leaving an inch space between each ball. Bake cookies for about 12 minutes or until the cookies have spread and are flat and crispy, with lines on the surface.

Makes about 6 dozen

 

Valentine's Day Chocolate Fudge Brownies

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I have told my husband not to buy me chocolate candy for Valentine's Day.

Sure, I love the thought, not to mention the taste (he knows how much I love buttercrunch!!!!!!).

But really, I need to NOT EAT candy for a variety of reasons including the number I see on the scale when I weigh myself each morning.

For Valentine's Day I am going to make brownies, which will be sufficient for the two of us to celebrate with a piece or two, then give the rest away to a friend of mine who loves sweets.

Then it will all be gone, we will have had a delicious, but calorie-limited Valentine's Day and that will be that until the next occasion.

 

Valentine's Day Chocolate Fudge BROWNIES

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square baking pan.  Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top part of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. When the ingredients have melted, blend them thoroughly and remove the pan from the heat. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat them 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the vanilla extract and nuts, if used. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool the brownies in the pan. Cut them into 16 squares.

Makes 16

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

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I know it's latke season and doughnut season. But in the larger world out there it's also cookie season.

Well, actually, for me it is always cookie season. When I was a kid my Mom baked cookies all the time and when we got home from school we had milk and cookies every day. That was the snack -- before the days of chips (potato, kale or otherwise in little bags) and frozen pizza.

My brothers taught me how to dunk.

So when cookie season comes around I feel nostalgic. Sure, I make the old family favorites. Fannies. Peanut butter cookies. Chocolate Chunk Grand Finale cookies

But occasionally I try something new. I'm not always happy with the results and most often I discard the recipe.

But these were wonderful. And also perfect for dunking.

 

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups finely ground almonds (8 ounces)
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons sugar for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract)

In a food processor, pulse the chocolate until almost ground. Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and cloves and process on pulse to incorporate the ingredients until finely ground and well mixed. Place the mixture into a bowl, add the ground almonds and mix to blend the ingredients thoroughly.

In the bowl of an electric beater, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in the extract and the chocolate-almond mixture.

Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the dough on top of the sugar. Place another piece of parchment paper on top. Roll or press the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Let the unbaked cookies air dry for at least 1-1/2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut out circles or shapes with a cookie cutter. Place the cut out cookies on the parchment paper, leaving room between each cookie for them to spread. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cookies cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 36 cookies

 

 

Passover Butter Cookies

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As far as I know, my father's Aunt Fanny didn't have any child named after her, but, in keeping with our Ashkenazi tradition, she does have something that bears her name: the family recipe for butter cookies.

We call them Fannies, because these butter cookies were her creation and somehow calling them Fanny's just didn't seem right to anyone but the English majors in our lives.

I have made these cookies so often I can mix the dough and shape them without even looking at what I'm doing. My kids make them. My grandkids even make them. 

Fannies are the ultimate butter cookie. You need look no further to find a better one.

But of course, not during Passover.

Which got me to thinking that -- this recipe is so good, why not try a Passover version?

After a few tries -- voila!

Thank you Aunt Fanny. I named them after you too.

 

aunt fanny's Passover Butter Cookies -- Passover Fannies

  • 1 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1/2 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into chunks
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • chocolate chips (about 50) (or use lekvar)

Place the matzo cake meal, ground almonds, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed for about a minute until the ingredients are evenly combined. Add the butter and mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes. The mixture will be crumbly. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and mix for another minute or so until a soft, uniform dough forms. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes or until somewhat chilled and slightly firmer. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take small chunks of dough and shape into balls about one-inch in diameter. Flatten the balls in the palm of your hands into disks that are about 1/4-inch thick. Place the flattened balls on ungreased cookie sheets, leaving some space between each cookie (they will spread slightly). Place a chocolate chip in the center of each dough disk (they hold better if you place the chips upside down). Bake for 10-2 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 50.

Note: if you use lekvar, make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie and fill the hollow with a small amount of apricot or prune lekvar 

Classic Dairy Hamantaschen

You can't get through Purim without eating at least one hamantaschen.

It's tradition, and for me, a treat I look forward to every year. Hamantaschen are among my very favorite desserts.

Over the years I've tried dozens of different kinds from a variety of bakeries: the classics, filled with poppy seeds or with prune, apricot or raspberry lekvar, and in recent years some with more contemporary fillings including white chocolate and halvah and fig and rhubarb and so on.

The traditional fillings are the ones I love best. 

I usually buy hamantaschen at a place called The Bakery, in Plainview, New York. It's right across the street from my contact lens doctor, so in the past, whenever I had an appointment with him I'd go to the bakery and stuff my trunk with a dozen hamantaschen (also mandelbread, babka and a few other treats I can't get (as delicious) in Connecticut).

However, this year I had cataract surgery and don't wear contact lenses anymore! A good thing too because my contact lens doctor retired.

So am I going to drive all the way to Plainview, Long Island for hamantaschen when there is no other reason to go?

Well, I might.

But in the meantime I decided to make my own. I never made dessert hamantaschen before (I did make lamb-phyllo hamantaschen for a recipe contest though and won a jar of tahini from Soom Foods!).

Here's my dairy version of classic sweet hamantaschen. The dough is tender and vaguely flaky and very rich. The ones in the photo all got gobbled in a flash.

I will make more for sure. With classic prune and apricot lekvar filling.

Dairy Hamantschen

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium or large egg, beaten
  • lekvar (about one cup)

Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix briefly. Add the butter and cream cheese and mix on low-medium speed for a minute or so until the mixture is crumbly. Raise the speed to medium and continue to mix until a smooth dough has formed. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using small chunks of dough at a time, roll the dough thin (about 1/8th-inch) and cut out circles with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Brush each circle lightly with the beaten egg. Place one slightly mounded teaspoon of lekvar in the middle of each circle. Bring up the sides to shape the circles into a triangle. Press the sides tightly to keep them from opening when they bake. Place the triangles on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes about 36

Cookies That Taste Like Home

I don't celebrate Christmas, but I do celebrate cookies. And cookies are a big part of the Christmas season. 

And so -- cookies.

When it comes to cookies, Lebkuchen is a seasonal special, with the magical fragrance of spices that make you feel warm and cozy when the weather's cold. I have tasted many many versions over the years, the best on a trip to Germany a few years ago.

So I tried my hand at baking some, a few recipes that were just okay. Then I baked these. My Hungarian friend Eva says they taste like "home." I took that as a win.

Happy holidays, whatever one you celebrate.

Lebkuchen Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or shortening or butter)
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice (or use lemon juice)
  • 1 large egg
  • all-purpose flour
  • candied ginger, dried cranberries, etc, optional

Combine the flour, orange peel, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl (or electric mixer bowl), whisk to distribute the ingredients evenly and set aside. Place the honey, molasses, brown sugar and coconut oil in a saucepan and cook over low-medium heat, stirring to blend the ingredients, until the coconut oil has melted and the liquid is smooth and evenly colored. Pour the liquid into the mixing bowl with the flour mixture. Add the orange juice and egg and mix ingredients thoroughly to make a smooth, evenly colored dough (about one minute at medium speed). The dough will be soft. Sprinkle the dough with some flour, wrap the dough or place it in a covered plastic container and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Roll the dough (in portions) on a floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out shapes. Place the shapes on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving some space between the cookies. Garnish the center with optional ginger, etc., if desired. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove the cookies from the oven and brush with icing while they are still warm.

Icing:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare the icing while the cookies are baking. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Brush on the cookies while they are still warm.

Makes about 3-1/2 dozen 2-inch cookies