Sweet Treasures

Your favorite holiday cookies become ours as well

December 03, 2008|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,kate.shatzkin@baltsun.com

There's something different about a holiday cookie. It's not only great-tasting and good-looking; it's also often a bridge to the past. And more than the everyday cookies we might make for our own families, holiday cookies are meant to be shared with a wider circle - the neighbors and friends, postal workers and teachers so important to our daily lives.

It's in that spirit that we offer our annual issue of best cookie recipes from readers. From the 120 recipes we received, we baked our way to 10 favorites. Each cookie has become special to the person who shared it, from the Hungarian nut slices a Towson widower sent in memory of his wife to the Italian cookies a Laurel woman's father twisted into whimsical shapes.

We'll be sending out a cookbook prize for each of the winning recipes. Our prize? A new batch of cookies - and stories - for the holidays.

HELP FOR THE COOK

Here are some tips for making and sharing your cookies this season:

* Have a little friendly competition at your cookie exchange, recommends Hersheys.com. "Make up some fun categories (The Cookie Santa can't Refuse, Most Decorative Cookie, etc.), supply a couple of prizes, and then let your guests vote for the winners," the Web site says.

* You'll find lots of ideas for hosting a cookie swap from a cookie party veteran at cookie-exchange.com. One of them - baking your cookies early - makes the treats easier to transport, because they'll dry out a little.

* Packing cookies for mailing? Air-popped popcorn can help them get there in one piece, says Martha Stewart's Web site. Put a scoop or two of the popcorn (make sure it has no oil) on the bottom of your mailing box, set the cookie tin on top of that, then cover with more popcorn.

* Avoid storing soft and crisp cookies together, says Goodhousekeeping.com. The chewy ones will soften the crunchy ones.

* To get a perfectly round sliced cookie, store your logs of dough in empty paper-towel tubes, says Fine Cooking's latest annual cookbook.

* Here's how to make inexpensive colored sugar at home, from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book: Sprinkle about 1/2 cup granulated sugar evenly over the bottom of a pie plate or metal bowl. Add about 5 drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. To be sure color is evenly distributed, push sugar through a fine-mesh sieve, then spread on a pie plate or baking sheet and let dry completely.

ORANGE-COCONUT SNOWBALLS

Jean Penman Psaros cut this recipe out of a magazine long ago, and the confection has been a fixture in her holiday baking for about 10 years. She likes the coconut, because "it sort of comes as a surprise," and her family loves that flavor. We liked the way the coconut and orange notes harmonized in this pretty cookie.

(makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen)

1 1/4 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar (sifted, then measured; divided use)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon coconut extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake coconut on a rimmed baking sheet until light golden, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Watch carefully.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and both extracts. Blend well. Beat in flour, orange peel and salt. Stir in coconut. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. Soften dough slightly before shaping.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using 1 level tablespoon of dough for each cookie, roll dough into balls. Place on prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.

Bake until golden on the bottom but pale on top, about 17 minutes. Roll hot cookies in the rest of the powdered sugar; reserve the sugar that's left over. Cool cookies on a rack and roll in reserved powdered sugar again, coating generously.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Courtesy of Jean Penman Psaros, Sparks

Per cookie (based on 3 dozen): : 131 calories, 1 gram protein, 7 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 16 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 13 milligrams cholesterol, 34 milligrams sodium

PAIGE'S PERFECT LOADED OATMEAL COOKIES

This oatmeal cookie is chock-full of flavors and textures - just as Paige Coyle hoped it would be when she created it in an attempt to win her neighborhood's annual picnic cookie contest. We thought this cookie was special enough to make for the holidays. Coyle says it freezes well, too.

(makes about 4 dozen)

7 ounces macadamia nuts, chopped

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups old fashioned oats (divided use)

1 cup sweetened coconut

one 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips

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