Calling all squares: Taking a new angle on treats to mail

November 08, 1995|By Dallas Morning News

In a world where holidays mean baking goodies for kids away at college and Uncle Albert in Toledo, you want to take advantage of every shortcut possible. So why not make those cookies and candies square from the outset to fit your shipping box?

There are some sly advantages to packing these indulgent square cookies and candies into rectangular boxes: You'll get more in -- the better for the recipient. Maybe that's why Food Arts magazine named bars and squares its 1994 cookies of the year.

Ginger shortbread

Makes 24 bars

2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces, slightly softened

1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Combine flour, brown sugar, ginger, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender until the mixture makes fine crumbs. Add crystallized ginger, stirring with a fork to blend evenly.

With lightly floured fingertips, press the mixture into the prepared baking pan in an even layer over the bottom. Bake on the center rack for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool in the pan on a wire rack before cutting into bars.

Buttery toffee squares

Makes 16 bars

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 8-inch square baking pan. In small bowl, whisk flour and salt together; set aside.

In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer on low speed, cream butter and sugar together. Mix in extract. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing until well-combined.

With a spatula, spread the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over hot crust. Cover pan with a baking sheet for a minute or two to help melt chocolate. Spread chocolate evenly over surface. Sprinkle with almonds, pressing lightly to set. Cool before cutting.

Pineapple-cranberry bars

Makes 36 servings

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons brown sugar (divided use)

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple in its own juice, undrained

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup margarine or butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, cornstarch and pineapple. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until cranberry skins pop and mixture thickens, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1 cup brown sugar, nuts and salt; mix well. Using pastry blender or fork, cut in margarine or butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 2 cups of crumb mixture for topping; press remaining crumb mixture firmly into bottom of greased pan. Drop cranberry mixture by tablespoonfuls over crumb mixture in pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely and cut into bars.

Microwave fudge

Makes 16 pieces

2 tablespoons butter, frozen, plus extra for greasing casserole

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup milk

2 squares unsweetened chocolate

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Thoroughly butter a 3-quart microwave-proof casserole with cover. Grease a 5-by-10-inch pan; set aside. Fill a glass with ice cubes and water. Fill the sink 1/2 -inch full with water.

Place all ingredients except butter, vanilla and nuts in casserole. Cover. Microwave on high (100 percent power) 5 minutes. Stir to melt chocolate.

Microwave, uncovered, for 10 minutes on high, stirring after 4 minutes, 7 minutes and 10 minutes. If mixture is runny, continue to microwave in 60-second increments until mixture thickens.

Drop a small ball of fudge in ice water. It should hold its shape and be al dente -- chewy.

Add, without stirring, the butter, vanilla and nuts. Then allow to cool for 10 minutes. Place in sink with 1/2 -inch of water.

When lukewarm and "skin" forms on top, stir fudge thoroughly but not vigorously by hand. Pause frequently to allow fudge to react. Fudge will thicken, lose its sheen, become lighter in shade or streaked, give off some heat and suddenly stiffen.

Pour quickly into prepared pan. Allow to set completely. Score top; when cool, store in airtight container in refrigerator or at room temperature.

Triple-rich caramel fudge

Makes 1 pound or 16 squares

3 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup butter or margarine

7 ounces sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, maple or other flavoring

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