Fancy Or Fast?

Either way, these cookie recipes from our readers are fabulous.

December 08, 2004|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN FOOD EDITOR

It's hard to imagine enjoying the winter holidays without cookies. Yet with so much to do, it's sometimes hard to squeeze in time to bake as well.

So for our annual cookie exchange at The Sun this year, we decided to make every cookie count. We went looking for two kinds of cookies to meet the most pressing demands of the season: cookies that can be made fast and those fancy enough to give to friends or put on the party table.

We received more than 100 recipes and many of them were so tasty or clever it was hard to choose just a dozen. Coincidentally, several of our favorites were meringues or relied on egg whites for their airy goodness.

One of those light and delicious cookies is reminiscent of pignoli cookies sold in Italian bakeries and came from a recipe sent in by Madelaine Fletcher of Butchers Hill. Fletcher, a public-affairs specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said she thinks she got the recipe for Pine-Nut Cookies from Gourmet magazine more than 10 years ago.

"They have always been a favorite of mine," she said. "They taste more complicated than they are."

For chocolate lovers, Carol Hatem of Bel Air provided an easy cookie, Chocolate Chewies. "You can do it in your sleep," she said.

A little confectioners' sugar, cocoa and flour are mixed with egg whites and pecans, then baked for 15 minutes. Hatem said the cookie is one of many she bakes at Christmastime, although she doesn't usually eat them.

"I can't stand pecans," she said. "I make them for the family."

When it comes to simplicity, it's hard to top Kathleen Kosinski's recipe for No Bake Cookies. All you do is melt peanut butter and margarine together, and stir in oatmeal, sugar, vanilla, coconut flakes, raisins and pecans. Form them into a ball, refrigerate and you're done.

Kosinski, who lives in North East, said she got the recipe more than 20 years ago from a volunteer at a hospital where she worked.

"I make it not only at Christmas, but also other times, too," she said. Recently she made them for a grandson's birthday. "The kids just love them."

Erin Branham of Arbutus wanted something more than a typical oatmeal cookie, so a couple of years ago she came up with the idea of adding a tablespoon of rum extract and Hershey's cinnamon chips to an oatmeal- raisin cookie recipe.

"I make it all throughout the year," said Branham, a music buyer for His Way Christian Bookstores. The cookie will be one of a half dozen she plans to make for Christmas gifts.

Another recipe that can be whipped up between decorating and shopping is Eleanor King's Quick-and-Easy Macaroons. "I used to make a big coconut cake but it got to be to much," said King, who lives in Towson. Instead, she makes the macaroons that she will share with her five children and 12 grandchildren.

The sixth fast cookie we chose was Patricia Sarnak's Crescent Cookie, a pecan cookie coated in powdered sugar. "It's a recipe from my aunt," said Sarnak, who lives in Ocean Pines. She said she has been making the cookie for at least 30 years and will deliver some to family members in Pennsylvania again this year.

For those looking to impress friends and co-workers, we received enticing and beautiful recipes, including Phoebe Martin's Peppermint Kisses. Martin, a retired cafeteria worker who lives in Hampstead, said she has forgotten where she got the recipe, but said she has made it for several years for her family.

Another family favorite is Jeanne Blakeslee's Neapolitan Cookie. "This has been in my family since I can remember," said Blakeslee, director of the E.E. Ford Leadership Institute at St. Paul School for Girls.

Blakeslee recalls growing up in upstate New York where giving cookies at Christmas was a family tradition. She continues that tradition, each year baking 12 varieties of cookies to represent the 12 days of Christmas.

For bakers willing to put in a little extra effort, Leslie Riden's Spitzbuben makes an impressive gift. The cookie features raspberry filling sandwiched between shortbread wafers.

"It's a cookie that requires a bit of patience," said Riden of Bel Air.

The dough must be kneaded twice and she emphasized that the almonds must be measured before they are chopped or the dough will be too crumbly.

Another shortbread cookie worth the trouble is the Chocolate- Walnut Shortbread Hearts and Stars sent in by Charlene Uhl of Woodbine. She said she started with a hazelnut shortbread she had found in a magazine, then "I changed virtually everything about it."

She came up with a cookie that she usually shapes into hearts or stars and then dips in chocolate. "It's very good for entertaining," said Uhl, who works in the Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families. "It keeps fabulously."

Those who like pecan or walnut pies will be pleased with Pam Polcaro's Walnut Cups that are made in mini muffin tins. "It's not too sweet," said Polcaro, who lives in Elkridge and is the mother of four small children. "It's like a little pie."

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