Sweet Sensations

Readers answer the call for fast or fancy cookie recipes


It wouldn't be the holidays without cookies. Tollhouse, oatmeal, sugar cookies, spritzes, date bars and gingersnaps bring families together to create sweet and lasting memories.

We asked readers for their favorite holiday cookie recipes, and more than 100 bakers responded.

Some recipes they sent us had been handed down for generations, sometimes acquiring interesting names, such as Iowa School Girl Cookies, Aunt Fran's Graham Cracker Treats and Hedgehog Cookies.

Others were fairly new, having been clipped from magazines or created by the readers, and included such modern ingredients as instant espresso coffee and crystallized ginger.

We selected a dozen of our favorites -- six fast ones that can be whipped up quickly on those hectic days of shopping and decorating, and six fancy ones special enough to serve to guests or give as gifts.

A few, such as Randi Braman's mandelbrot recipe, were both fast and festive. Braman, 40, of Owings Mills, sent in the recipe for MomMom Shelly's Chocolate-Chip Mandelbrot, the cookie her mother always made at family gatherings. Resembling biscotti, although not as hard, the cookies are baked in loaves and then sliced.

Dark chips and bright maraschino cherries give them a festive appearance whether they are served for Hanukkah or Christmas gatherings. "It's good and easy and quick. You can whip it up in an hour," said Braman, a family practitioner.

Barbara Melosh, 55, pastor at Salem Lutheran Church in South Baltimore, will not only be preaching Christmas Eve services, she'll be baking cookies for her congregation as well.

She will be making Cranberry Slices, a crunchy treat studded with dried cranberries and crystallized ginger. She memorized the recipe she came across in a magazine in the dentist's office. "I didn't have anything to write it down," she said.

Another cookie worthy of a crowd is the Espresso Thumbprint sent in by part-time college instructor Donna Macek, 39, of Towson. She said she found the recipe a few years ago in a supermarket magazine and her kids, 5 and 7, loved it.

Although she makes chocolate-chip cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, spritzes and other traditional cookies, the thumbprints "are the first to go," she said.

Liz Barclay, 54, director of admission and assistant principal at Indian Creek School in Annapolis, sent in her adaptation of a familiar iced bar cookie. The frequent cooking-contest participant swapped chocolate chips, raisins and dates for white chocolate, cranberry and orange to make Cranberry-Orange Blondies.

"I like taking it places," Barclay said. "It's pretty, and it serves a lot of people's taste, too."

But not all fancy cookies were new discoveries. Deb Kozlowski, 45, a biology and chemistry teacher at Redeemer Classical Christian School in Kingsville, sent in her mother-in-law's recipe for chocolate pinwheels that is several decades old. "They're the perfect Christmas cookie," said Kozlowski, who serves them at a neighborhood holiday party in Perry Hall. "They are pretty without being too much work."

And Sara Frances Shay, 86, of Linthicum Heights has been making her Jamborees for at least 30 years. "I like the jam. It's very different, and it's tasty," said Shay.

Sometimes, though, you need a cookie quickly. That's where the fast bunch comes in handy.

Theresa Baranoski's Hedgehog Cookies have just five ingredients that are dumped in a bowl, shaped, rolled in coconut and baked less than 15 minutes.

"This is an old-time recipe," said Baranoski, 76, of Pasadena. She doesn't remember where she got it, but she makes the walnut-and-date treats for church bake sales and to give to friends and family, she said.

Another old-fashioned cookie is Donna Kniss' Hermit recipe that calls for just a few basics -- butter, brown sugar, flour and spices. Kniss, 68, of Pasadena, said her sister gave her the recipe 15 years ago, and she makes the cookies every year.

Betty Moore, 73, of Middle River sent in an oatmeal-cookie recipe that also is a classic. She said she has been making Oatmeal Lace Cookies for 30 years. "They're really thin and crunchy when you eat them. You can't tell there is oatmeal in it. They are really good."

Other fast cookies were classics with a twist, such as the Coconut-Orange Snowballs sent in by Linda Weissert of Pittsburgh. These cookies resemble Mexican wedding cookies, but are flavored with orange zest and coconut extract. Weissert, 58, and an employee at U.S. Steel, said she found the recipe on the Internet two or three years ago. "I made it and thought it was one of the most refreshing and different cookies I'd had in some time."

Another fairly new creation is Kim Forthuber's Ricotta-Cheese Cookie. Forthuber, 49, a special-education teacher and coach at Towson High School, said she can't remember where she got the recipe, but she has been making it for three or four years.

"I try to do a new cookie every year," she said. "It's an easy and light cookie, and you can make so many variations. It was a hit from Day One."

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