Delicious Dozen

Mix six recipes from readers with six from professionals, and the result is a tasty blend of cookies to give and to enjoy.

December 03, 2003|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff

We asked for your best cookie recipes, and you gave them to us -- more than 130 of your favorites.

After a good bit of debate and a frantic weekend of baking, we chose winners in six categories: best bar, drop, rolled, quick and classic cookies, and best cookie to give.

We then invited three professional bakers -- cookbook authors Elinor Klivans and Nancy Baggett, and Phoenix cooking instructor Maria Springer -- to give us their best recipes in the same categories.

You can decide whether you think the amateurs or the professionals had the best cookies. We thought they all were winners.

Among the recipes you'll find is Miss Eddie's Lace Cookie, which we chose as the best quick cookie among our entries from amateur bakers. Nancy Dankanich 48, a nursing instructor from Woodbine, said an elderly patient in Harrisburg, Pa., gave her the recipe in 1980. "I make it frequently and they're always a big hit," Dankanich said.

Linda Freeburger, a teacher's assistant from Towson, sent in our choice for best drop cookie from among our amateur bakers. Freeburger, 45, bakes a dozen kinds of cookies during the holidays, but this Brazil Nut and Orange cookie, she says, "is a little different."

Estelle McCormick, 62, of Towson gave us our favorite bar-cookie recipe. She said she got the recipe for the chocolate streusel bar from her mother more than 35 years ago, but she doesn't know where it came from originally. "It was probably passed down through the generations," said McCormick, who has been baking the bars for her family for many years.

Our favorite classic cookie was Mary Frances Edwards' molasses cookie, which also came from an old recipe. "It came off a molasses jar 40 years ago," said Edwards, 81, of Havre de Grace. The cookie is so popular in her family that when her son married years ago, he told his wife she would have to learn how to make it.

The cookie isn't difficult to make, but Edwards gives one note of caution: "You have to be careful you don't over-bake it, or you will have snaps and they are not the same."

Our choice for the best rolled cookie also came with a bit of advice. Its creator, Betsy Mitchell, 47, a graphics designer from Lutherville, told us her Sugar Plum Pies are too good to give away.

"Early in my marriage, I spent most of a day making six dozen of these little gems for my first-ever Christmas cookie exchange," she wrote. "That was before I realized you don't make six dozen time-consuming [though really great] cookies for a cookie exchange. Likely as not, you'll trade them for five dozen mediocre cookies. ... I've since resolved to keep these for more private consumption."

Another cookie that takes a bit of work, but is well worth the trouble, is Liz Barclay's Strawberry Almond Tassies. Our testers cheered this miniature pastry, and we thought it a great cookie to give. Although we loved the strawberry-almond flavors, other fillings also would work.

Barclay, 52, an administrator at Indian Creek School in Crownsville, said she got the recipe from her mother and that originally she used raspberry preserves and lemon juice for the filling. In recent years, Barclay has switched to using all-fruit fillings and almond paste in the recipe.

"They are deliciously light, ... a sweet bite without being too heavy. Everyone is dieting these days, so it satisfies the sweet tooth without being `over the top,' " she said.

Best Rolled Cookies

FROM THE READER

Sugar Plum Pies

Makes 3 dozen to 4 dozen cookies

DOUGH (see note):

3 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter or margarine, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 large egg

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/3 cup milk

FILLING:

3/4 cup raisins

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1/3 cup water, plus more if needed

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

granulated sugar for sprinkling

Mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture alternately with milk until blended. Dough will be soft and a bit sticky. Divide dough in fourths, flatten, wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

To make filling, mix fruit, water and sugar in small saucepan. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat, stirring 2 to 3 times, about 5 minutes until liquid is syrupy and fruit is tender but not dry. (Add more water if necessary.) Remove from heat. Add lemon juice, nuts and nutmeg. Cool completely.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough, one fourth at a time, to 1/8 -inch thickness. (Keep remainder of dough refrigerated.) Cut with plain or scalloped 2-inch round cutter. Place rounds 1 inch apart on prepared pan. Top each with 1 teaspoon filling, then another dough round. Press edges lightly to seal. With sharp knife, cut an X in the center of each top. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake about 10 minutes, until bottoms and edges are very lightly browned. Remove to wire rack to cool.

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