Baking cookies, with a helping hand from your freezer

December 11, 1996|By Lisa Cherkasky | Lisa Cherkasky,EATING WELL MAGAZINE

On the 12th day before Christmas, you might find yourself rummaging through the card file looking for a copy of Aunt Minnie's Russian tea cakes recipe. Hers are the best, but all you can remember is that the recipe begins by softening two sticks of butter. To call Minnie (the family chatterbox) for the rest of the ingredient list means at least an hour on the telephone.

Stop looking. Don't worry. The recipe is right here. It's just one offering in this winning selection that includes cookies from many traditions. Together on a pretty plate or in a cookie tin, these Christmas sweets bring glad tidings. And this year, they bring healthful tidings as well.

Chocolate-orange crisps

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 1/3 cups all-purpose white flour

1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 large egg white

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1 tablespoon low-fat milk

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Icing (recipe follows)

Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Remove the top of the double boiler and set aside to cool slightly. In a bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat sugar, oil and butter with an electric mixer on high speed until smooth and light, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, beat in egg white, corn syrup, milk, vanilla and orange zest. Blend in the melted chocolate, then half the dry ingredients. Blend in the remaining dry ingredients just until blended.

Divide the dough into thirds; roll and freeze (see "The Way to Roll" below).

Position oven rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 375 degrees. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets or coat them with nonstick cooking spray. Cut out cookies with small cutters and transfer to the baking sheets.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until firm to the touch and just starting to brown on the edges. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.

Decorate the cookies with icing. (The cookies will keep for 1 week in a tightly covered cookie tin. Freeze for longer storage.)

Per cookie: 55 calories; 1 g protein; 1.8 g fat; 9 g carbohydrate; 20 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 0 g fiber

Gingerbread men

Makes about 6 dozen 3-inch cookies

4 cups sifted all-purpose white flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

2 large egg whites

Icing (recipe follows)

In a bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, cloves and salt.

In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream brown sugar, oil and butter until fluffy and light, about 3 minutes. Gradually beat in molasses until smooth. Beat in egg whites one at a time. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 4 additions just until combined.

Divide the dough into thirds; roll and freeze (see "The way to roll" below).

Position oven rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 375 degrees. Lightly oil 2 or 3 baking sheets or coat them with nonstick cooking spray. Cut out cookies with a small gingerbread-man cutter. Transfer to a prepared sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes, or until firm to the touch and just starting to brown on the edges. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.

Decorate the cookies with icing. (The cookies will keep for 1 week in a tightly covered cookie tin. Freeze for longer storage.)

Per cookie: 50 calories; 1 g protein; 1.3 grams fat; 8 g carbohydrate; 35 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 0 g fiber

Chocolate rum balls

Makes about 5 dozen rum balls

1/2 cup amber rum or dark rum

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 cup confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 9-ounce package chocolate wafer cookies

1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs

3/4 cup pecan halves (3 ounces)

In a mixing bowl, combine rum and corn syrup. Sift sugar, cocoa and cinnamon into the mixture and whisk until smooth.

Grind chocolate wafer cookies into fine crumbs in a food processor. Add the cookie crumbs and breadcrumbs to the liquid ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside to rest for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the mixture is easy to roll.

In a skillet, toast pecans over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the pecans are fragrant and toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool briefly and chop fine. Transfer the pecans to a shallow dish.

Roll the chocolate mixture into 3/4 -inch balls. Then roll each ball in the pecans to coat them completely. Store in an airtight container. Rum balls are best if left to age 2 or 3 days before eating. (The rum balls will keep for several weeks in a tightly covered cookie tin.)

Per rum ball: 45 calories; 1 g protein, 1.6 g fat; 7 g carbohydrate; 0.6 g alcohol; 45 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 0 grams fiber

Russian tea cakes

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

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