Category Archives: CHRISTMAS RECIPES

FUDGE!!

When I was a much younger adult (or want-a-be adult), I went through a phase of loving Snickers. So much so, that I even kept a supply in my friends Dick and Eloise’s freezer. I just never knew when a “snickers attack” was going to hit, and I spent a lot of time with my friend’s at their water-front home in Medina. So having Snickers bars in their freezer made perfect sense to all three of us!

Well as in most things, my passion for Snickers bars eventually ebbed only to be replaced by an absolute devotion to See’s buttery brown sugar caramels with a touch of maple sugar and California almonds enrobed in smooth milk chocolate. And as of this writing, I still adore really good caramels studded with nuts and encased in creamy milk chocolate. I also happen to love fudge.

So when a friend gave me the first recipe on this post several years ago, I immediately recognized a homemade version of my favorite kind of candy.

In addition to the Chocolate Fudge with Caramels and Peanuts recipe, I am also including 5 other wonderful fudge recipes. I hope you try them all. They are all sinfully delicious, easy to prepare, and perfect for sharing with others at Christmas time, on Wednesday’s, after skiing, to impress your fellow workers, or …………. Oh heck, they’re good any old time!

So that you don’t have to go so far as to read this entire post, I have listed the names of all the recipes provided in order of appearance:

CHOCOLATE FUDGE WITH CARAMELS AND PEANUTS

CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

ROCKY ROAD FUDGE

PEPPERMINT FUDGE (previously posted)

FUDGE WITH BRANDIED CHERRIES AND WALNUTS (previously posted)  

PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE (previously posted)

I hope you enjoy all of these wonderful fudge recipes. And BTW – Happy New Year

 

CHOCOLATE FUDGE WITH CARAMELS AND PEANUTS

  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli Majestic Premium Cocoa Powder. I purchase it at Cash & Carry.)
  • ¼ c. packed brown sugar
  • ¼ c. milk
  • 3½ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 30 vanilla caramels, unwrapped
  • 1 T. water
  • 2 c. salted peanuts
  • ½ c. semisweet chocolate chips*
  • ½ c. milk chocolate chips*

Melt butter in a heavy medium sized saucepan. Stir in the cocoa, brown sugar, and milk. Bring mixture to a boil. Boils for about 2 minutes stirring the entire time. Remove pan from heat and stir in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until well blended. Pour into a buttered 9-inch square baking dish.

In another heavy pan, heat the caramels and water until caramels are melted. Stir in peanuts; spread over chocolate layer. Microwave chocolate chips until melted; spread over caramel layer. Chill until firm. Cut into small squares. Store in refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

*You can use all semi-sweet or all milk chocolate if you prefer

CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

  • 10 T. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1½ c. brown sugar
  • 1¾ c. powdered sugar
  • 1½ c. chunky peanut butter (not the old-fashioned kind)
  • 1 c. milk chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use a combination)

In a large microwave-safe dish, melt 5 tablespoons of the butter. Remove from microwave and stir in the brown sugar, powdered sugar, and peanut butter. Mix well and press into a lightly buttered 9-inch square pan.

Wipe out the microwave-safe dish and heat the chocolate chips and remaining 5 tablespoons of butter stirring frequently until the mixture is smooth. Pour over the peanut butter crust and spread evenly with a small offset spatula.

Chill the bars for several hours until completely firm. When ready to serve, let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting into 1-inch squares. Store remaining candy in refrigerator. Recipe from the Culinary Hill web site.

ROCKY ROAD FUDGE

  • 2½ c. granulated sugar 
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 can (5 oz.) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
  • 1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème (2 cups) 
  • 2 c. semisweet chocolate chips  
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts  
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 2 c. miniature marshmallows 

In a medium sized heavy saucepan, cook sugar, butter, and evaporated milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Stir in the marshmallow crème and chocolate chips until smooth. Stir in the walnuts and vanilla. Stir in marshmallows (marshmallows should not melt completely). Quickly spread in a lightly buttered 13×9-inch pan. Cool completely, then refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Cut into serving sized squares. Store in refrigerator.

PEPPERMINT FUDGE (sorry no picture)

  • 3 c. sugar
  • ¾ c. (1½ sticks) butter
  • 1 small can (5-oz.) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
  • 1½ c. chocolate chips
  • 1 7-oz. jar marshmallow crème
  • 1 tsp. real vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. good peppermint extract
  • heaping ¼ c. crushed good peppermint candy (preferably King Leo or See’s, not inexpensive candy canes)

Heat sugar, butter, and evaporated milk to a full rolling boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees, stirring constantly to prevent scorching; about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips and marshmallow crème until melted. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts. Spread immediately into a lightly buttered 9×9-inch pan. Top with peppermint candy, pressing in slightly. Cool at room temperature for about 4 hours. Cut into small squares and store in an airtight container in your refrigerator.

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FUDGE WITH BRANDIED CHERRIES AND WALNUTS

  • 2 T. cherry brandy or cherry flavored liqueur (like kirshwasser)
  • ¾ c. whole dried cherries
  • 3 c. sugar
  • ¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) butter
  • 1 small can (5-oz.) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
  • 1 ½ c. chocolate chips
  • 1 7-oz. jar marshmallow crème
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Place cherry liqueur and cherries in a small heavy pan. Bring just to a boil and take off the heat. Set aside while you prepare the fudge. Heat sugar, butter, and evaporated milk to a full rolling boil in a heavy saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil on medium heat until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees, stirring constantly to prevent scorching; about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips and marshmallow crème until melted. Add reserved brandied cherries, walnuts, and the vanilla. Spread immediately into a lightly buttered 9×9-inch pan. Cool at room temperature for about 4 hours. Cut into small squares and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 lg. can (1 2/3 c.) evaporated milk
  • 4 c. sugar
  • 1 pt. (7-oz.) marshmallow crème
  • 1 c. crunchy peanut butter

Combine butter, evaporated milk, and sugar in a heavy medium sized saucepan. Bring mixture to 240 degrees stirring continuously over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in marshmallow crème and peanut butter. Pour into a lightly buttered 9×13-inch pan. Refrigerate for a few minutes, then cut into 1-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS BERLINER STOLLEN

Our dear friend Vicki began baking Christmas stollen when she was a teenager. But somehow the recipe didn’t leave with her when she left home. So a bit later in life when she wanted to again make stollen for Christmas, it took her years to find a recipe close to what she remembered from her childhood. Even then she had to amend the recipe. But I’m here to tell you, wherever she got the inspiration for this amazing Christmas treat, she has created the perfect Christmas delicacy.

This bread is sweet, but not too sweet, with just enough jewel-like raisins, currents, and pieces of candied fruit embedded in the flavorful bread to make a believer out of the most “fruitcake phobic” individual. There is simply nothing not to like about this stollen! And I haven’t even mentioned the glorious vanilla sugared crust yet. OMG, it is so tasty.

Now I know, I should have posted this recipe way before Christmas. But in my defense, I was a bit busy baking cookies and making candy for my children’s Christmas goodie packages. So any thoughts of writing a post was inconceivable. But it’s really not too late to make stollen this year. In fact, some grocery stores have candied fruit on sale right now. I know QFC does. In fact I recently bought all the fruit I need for next year and have it safely stored in our basement storage room.

So you don’t have to wait for next December. We still have a long winter ahead of us, and nothing would be nicer than to wake up some cold, dreary winter weekend morning to a cup of fresh hot coffee and a slice of this fabulous bread. But I must warn you; it takes stollen about 10 days to sit and contemplate the existence of plastic wrap and aluminum foil before it has fully developed to its rightful potential. And I’m telling you, that’s a long, long time to be patient, especially after the first time you taste this wonderful treat. But, if I can do it – so can you.

So even though there are a lot of ingredients, this bread comes together very easily and remarkably quickly. So no excuses there! Please make this bread. It is simply divine.

Before I end this post, I want to wish you a very Happy New Year. Please join me in praying for peace on earth, a show of unity between parties on issues that concern all mankind, and an end to greed so prevalent as to make most of us who are over 60 glad that we are!

  • 5 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1½ c. granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground mace
  • 2 c. finely ground toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into roughly ½-inch chunks
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. whole milk cottage cheese
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • 2 tsp. real vanilla
  • 1 T. grated lemon rind
  • 1 T. lemon juice or 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 T. dark rum or 1 tsp. rum extract
  • 2 c. golden raisins (sultanas)
  • 1½ c. currants
  • 8 oz. (1 lg. container) candied citron*, lemon peel, or orange peel (I use citron)  
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • vanilla sugar (see recipe below)

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, mace, and ground almonds in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse 5 or 6 times to blends the ingredients. Add the butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Whirl the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, vanilla, lemon rind, lemon juice, almond extract, and rum in a blender. Pour into a large mixing bowl.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the raisins, currants, and candied fruit.

Hint: I use a regular table knife to stir in the fruit. Actually with any stiff dough, a table knife is the perfect tool. (Clean hands work well too.)

Mark helping Vicki “stir” all the ingredients together on a double batch

Divide dough into 4 portions. On a floured surface, gently pat each quarter portion into a circle about ½-inch thick, then fold half of circle ¾ of the way over the other half. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

unbaked – single batch

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is light brown and the bread is done. (I use the old toothpick trick to see if the bread is ready to come out of the oven. The toothpick should come out clean.)

Remove pan from oven and cool breads completely. When cool, slather with the half cup melted butter and sprinkle with copious amounts of vanilla sugar. After two hours or so, wrap each stollen in plastic wrap then a second layer of aluminum foil. Place in a dry, cool place for at least 10 days. (In other words, forget about the stollen while it ages. Good luck with that, BTW!) And don’t worry about the bread molding or anything like that. It will be just fine, in fact, it will be perfect! If you want to keep it for months, it freezes very well. (Vicki tells me, she and Mark keep one of the stollen they bake in the freezer and enjoy it in July. Sounds like a good idea to me!)

Note: If you use candied orange peel, substitute grated orange peel and orange extract/juice for the grated lemon peel and lemon extract/juice. If you use citron (read all about it below) use lemon rind and juice.

*Candied Citron: Candied citron is not candied lemon, orange, or grapefruit peel or a combination thereof. Citron is actually a semitropical fruit that is similar to a lemon but with thicker skin. To make candied citron, the peel is blanched in water, boiled in sugar syrup then partially dried. Citron lends a mild floral note to fruitcakes, panettone, and other such confections. Though the pulp is sour, the candied peel is perfect for baking into stolen.

VANILLA SUGAR

  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla powder (I use Cook’s) or find a recipe for vanilla sugar you like better on line!

Whisk together and store extra in an airtight container.

 

 

MINCE TARTS OR PIE WITH BOURBON CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM

So what the heck is a mince tart? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of mincemeat. Mince is merely mincemeat without the meat – thus “mince”! A sweet mixture of liquored and spiced minced fruit (apples, raisins, sultanas, currents, and candied orange peel), baked in a buttery crust. And a mince pie? (I’ll leave you to figure that one out on your own!)

It all started when Jim, this years’ Thanksgiving dinner host, asked me to bring dessert. No problem. I knew that meant French Apple Pie (recipe on site) and Pumpkin Pie Bars (also on site). Then he mentioned how much he loved mincemeat pie. (I can take a hint when I hear one!) So of course, I added mincemeat to the lineup.

At first I was tempted to buy mincemeat, but the good stuff is expensive.  For example: The lowest price I could find for a decent mincemeat – Cross and Blackwell Rum and Brandy Mincemeat, 29-oz. jar was $24.99 from ebay. At least it wasn’t $25.00, that would have been really too prohibitively expensive. (And yes I do know that $24.99 is really $25.00! But most retailers still must think that consumers don’t know the difference, because they continue to waste printer space and ink by not labeling a product $25, instead of $24.99!) Sorry for that little rant, but it bugs me that retailers think the general public is completely lacking intelligence! And grocery stores. What’s with “sales” prices on an item liked canned baked beans advertised as “3 for $6”? Why not just $2 a can? Because how many ever you buy, the price is still going to be $2 a can. You don’t have to buy 3 cans to get the “sale” price. (Sorry, I’ll stop now!) Back to this recipe.  

I had made homemade mince before, but it had been almost 15 years. So I looked up the recipe in my 2nd cookbook, made a couple of changes I felt were necessary (I’ve learned a thing or two about baking in the past 15 years), and came up with this recipe. And oh my! It turned out to be a really good mince recipe.

Now I know some of you have memories of mincemeat pies that weren’t terribly good. But I feel duty bound to encourage you to put your unpleasant memories behind you and give this mince a try. First of all, no critters were harmed in the making of this mince. Mince is simply, as stated above, a sweet mixture of liquored and spiced minced fruit (apples, raisins, sultanas, currents, and candied orange peel). There is nothing in mince not to like. And when you add a dollop of Bourbon Caramel Whipped Cream – it’s a holiday in your mouth.

So start a new tradition at your home this year. But don’t wait. Make the mince now so that it will be ready for Christmas. Like nice people, mince only improves with age.

  • 1½ c. raisins
  • 1½ c. golden raisins (sultanas)  
  • 1½ c. dried currents
  • 2/3 c. + ¼ c. bourbon or brandy, divided
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and finely minced
  • 8-oz. container candied orange peel
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ c. brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground mace
  • ¼ tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • tart or pie pastry (recipes below)
  • coarse or granulated sugar

This recipe makes enough mince for 2 10-inch tarts or 2 8-inch pies

Place the raisins, sultanas, and dried currents in a small saucepan. Add the 2/3 cup bourbon, bring just to a boil, stir to coat all the fruit, remove from heat, and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the apples, candied orange peel, butter, brown sugar, spices, and the zest and juice of the lemon and orange, in a large ovenproof dish. When the raisins and currents are cool, stir into the apple mixture.  

Cover the dish and place in a cool place overnight. (The remaining bourbon gets added the next day.)

The following day, place the ovenproof dish in a cold oven, bring the temperature to 200 degrees, and bake for three hours, stirring every hour or so. Remove from oven, let cool completely, and stir in the remaining fourth cup bourbon.

Store covered in your refrigerator until ready to use. (Best if left to mellow at least 4 weeks, but if you are like me, the mince only gets to age for about a week. It’s still good, so no worries.)

MINCE TARTS (makes enough pastry for 2 10-inch tart pans)

  • 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¾ c. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 5 to 6 T. ice water, enough to make a cohesive dough

Combine the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor. Pulse mixture until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water, stopping when the dough comes together.

Divide the dough in half, and shape each piece into a flattened round disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When ready to prepare the tarts, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Let warm for 15 minutes or so, till it’s “rollable.”  

If using 10-inch tart pans, roll each disk into a 12-inch circle, about 1/8″ thick. (Remember, always roll the dough from the middle outward.) Using a plate or “whatever”, cut the dough into a 12-inch circle. (Save the scraps to use for decorative cutouts for the top of the tart.)

Note: If you are making tarts smaller or larger than 10 inches, measure the bottom of the tart pan plus double the height of the sides. Roll your pastry dough to that circumference. 

Gently nestle the dough circles into the tart pans. The pastry on the sides should be flush with the top of the tart pans. (Try not to stretch the pastry too much.) Cut shapes from the dough scraps: set aside.

Prick the bottom of each pastry several times with a fork. This helps to prevent puffing while the tart bakes.

Spoon mince into the pasty lined tart pans until it reaches the top of the crust. Gently press down as you fill the tart. Top with cut out decorative tart crust pieces liberally sprinkled with coarse or granulated sugar.

Bake the tarts in a preheated 400 degree oven for 28 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Half way through the baking time, cover the mince with a round piece of aluminum foil to prevent the mince from browning too much and becoming dry.

Remove the tarts from the oven and cool in the pan. When ready to serve, gently push up on the removable bottom of the tart pan and cut into very narrow wedges. Serve at room temperature with Bourbon Caramel Whipped Cream (recipe below) or topping of choice.

MINCE PIE 

  • 6 T. ice cold water
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • heaping 1 c. Crisco

Step 1 – Pour cold water into a small bowl.

Step 2 – Measure flour and salt into a mixing bowl.

Step 3 – Take ½ cup of the flour back out of the mixing bowl and stir it into the water. Make a paste. Set aside.

Step 4 – Add the heaping cup of Crisco to the flour and salt mixture. Mix together. (I use my KitchenAid mixer.)

Step 5 – Add the water/flour paste to the flour/shortening bowl and mix just until blended. Do not over-mix. Divide dough in half. Roll out dough and place in 8-inch pie pans. Cut off excess dough and save for pie crust cut outs to decorative the top of the pie.

When ready to bake pies, pour mince into the pastry lined pans. Top with cut out decorative pie crust pieces liberally sprinkled with coarse or granulated sugar.

Cover edges of pie crust with 1½-inch strips of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Remove foil last 5 minutes of baking time.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is a very light brown and the filling is starting to bubble. Half way through the baking time, cover the mince with a round piece of aluminum foil to prevent the mince from browning too much and becoming dry.

Serve warm or at room temperature with Bourbon Caramel Whipped Cream (recipe below) or topping of choice.

Helpful hint: Use a pastry cloth to roll out your pie crust. It really makes a difference. You can find pastry cloths in almost any kitchen wares shop. Well worth the $10 or so.

BOURBON CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM

  • ¼ c. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • tiny pinch salt
  • ¼ c. + 2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 T. good bourbon

Whisk butter, brown sugar, and salt together over medium heat in a small heavy saucepan until brown sugar has dissolved completely. (This happens after the mixture comes to a boil and is allowed to burble for a couple of minutes or until it turns kind of shiny. Continue whisking the whole time the mixture is on the heat.) Remove from heat and gently whisk in the quarter cup heavy cream and bourbon. Allow caramel to come to room temperature and then refrigerate.

Beat the remaining 2 cups of whipping cream to stiff peaks. Add the cold caramel sauce and whip just until well blended. (The caramel sauce and whipped cream can be combined up to a few hours before serving.)  

DRIED CRANBERRY, PISTACIO, AND WHITE CHOCOLATE BISCOTTI

Biscotti is one type of cookie I always try to send my kids in their Christmas goodie package. They all drink coffee and/or tea, and there is nothing better on a busy holiday morning than a sweet and crunchy biscotti to help set the holiday spirit. So when I read this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis which contained dried cranberries (red) and pistachios (green), it seemed too fortuitous to ignore.

So I baked up a couple batches, decorated them in honor of the season, and sent them off to the kids via the capable hands of UPS.

Now something you should know about biscotti. THEY ARE STINKIN’ EASY TO MAKE! And why they are so expensive in bakeries or off the grocery store shelf is way beyond my understanding. I mean really! Just because they look impressive should not give providers the right to charge so darn much. And because I like to stand behind some of the outlandish statements I make on this blog, I went on line and found an example of what I’m talking about. From Etsy, 1 dozen traditional Italian Almond Biscotti – $20.00. Shipping – $13.75. I assume you can do the math on this, but in case your calculator is at the repair shop, that’s $2.82 each! You can practically prepare an entire batch of 36-40 biscotti for about double the amount of 1 of these purchased babies. And yes I know, someone had to buy the ingredients, pay for the facility, heat, electricity, labor etc. etc. But $13.75 for shipping? How heavy are these little darlings anyway? That would be my first question! All together, in my opinion, way too much money to spend on a simple to prepare cookie. 

Anyway, I’ll get off my high horse and get back to this recipe. (Steam is still coming out of my ears, but I shall contain myself for your sake.) Like I said before, biscotti are really very easy to make. And this recipe is no exception. It is just delicious and perfect for the Christmas holidays.

So give this wonderful biscotti recipe a try. You can find my other biscotti recipes under Biscotti – 6 Ways From Sunday also on this site. Cheers

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest   
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 lg. eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ c. pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 6-oz. good-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. vegetable oil
  • red and green sugar crystals, for garnish (if making for Christmas)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and dried cranberries.

Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until light golden, about 30 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

Place the log on a cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into ¾-inch thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until pale golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a rack and cool completely. Don’t clean the cookie sheet.

Melt the white chocolate slowly in a microwave oven. Stir in the oil. Place cooled biscotti back on the baking sheet close together so they are touching. Lightly drizzle the melted chocolate on each biscotti in a zig-zag pattern. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals if preparing the biscotti for Christmas. Otherwise just leave plain. Leave on the cooling racks until the white chocolate is set. (This takes a while.) Or refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 50 minutes.

The biscotti can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container, or wrapped in foil and frozen in re-sealable plastic bags.

 

 

PAYDAY CANDY BAR BARS

I have spent the last couple of weeks sharing recipes with you that are on my “I am going to lose weight list”. But today, because I remembered that there are those of you out there who don’t need to lose weight, are at your perfect weight, and can eat all the sweets you want (I hate you BTW), I decided to post this recipe from Cooking Mamas as it appeared in the Crab Cracker, a local Stanwood/Camano Island publication.

This recipe is for a cookie bar that tastes even better than a PayDay candy bar. I kid you not! And it’s really easy to prepare. (What could be better?)

I made these in December to include in my kids Christmas goodie package. And yes, I’m still baking cookies and making candy for my kids at Christmas time. (Now it just costs me more to ship the darn packages than it does to buy the ingredients! But who’s counting? Old habits are hard to break, after all.) And of course Mr. C. doesn’t mind having a variety of sweets around the house at Christmas time. In fact, he would be quite happy if there were an assortment of homemade delicacies available all year round. (That just ain’t going to happen!) But of course, with all the entertaining we do, there is usually some type of treat for him to nibble on. Just not a big selection. But he still remains one spoiled cookie (so to speak), so please don’t feel sorry for him!

Now never mind that I can’t eat these delicious bars. (You know, the old martyr syndrome thing happening here!) Just do yourself and your family a favor and bake/melt-up a batch of these amazing bars in the near future. Your kids are especially going to flip over these delightful yummies. Just make sure you save one for yourself. And do me a favor. After you have taken a big old bite out of your piece, lift the rest in my direction. I’m sure I will somehow feel the love and my spirits will be lifted. My jealousy won’t be impacted, but it might help dissipate my longing for these bars by just knowing that someone out there appreciates me. Sigh….. (Martyrdom does this to a person. I’ll be better tomorrow.)

And no, I wasn’t stuttering when I named these delightful treats. I just couldn’t think of what else to call them!

For more recipes from Cooking Mamas, visit their website www.cookingmamas.com

  • 1¼ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • ½ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 c. peanut butter chips
  • 2 c. mini marshmallows
  • 2¼ c. roasted salted peanuts, divided

Combine the flour, brown sugar, and butter in a large bowl. Stir until large clumps form, then using hands, knead mixture together. Press the dough into the bottom of a 9×9-inch pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. 

Combine the sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter chips in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Reduce from heat and add the marshmallows. Stir until the marshmallows have dissolved into the mixture. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the peanuts. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust and smooth the top using an offset spatula. Sprinkle with remaining 1¼ cup peanuts and gently press the peanuts into the fillings using your fingertips.

Refrigerate at least an hour before cutting into bars. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap.

 

 

KRENDL (RUSSIAN CHRISTMAS BREAD)

I dearly love being invited to a dinner party where everyone is asked to bring a dish to compliment a theme, be it ethnic or as a side to a particular main dish, or to include a particular ingredient, etc. I love this type of invitation because it often forces me to search the web. (Like I need a dinner party invitation to search out new and exciting dishes to share with you!)

Anyway, I was recently invited as a guest of a guest (my dear friend Vicky) to be her date. (Her husband and mine were gigging together during the dinner hour. So I was basically Mark’s replacement at table.)

The dinner was being hosted by Eric and Eliza and labeled as “Goose Fest”. But in reality, it was to celebrate Russian Christmas. Eliza is of Russian decent and apparently many Russians celebrate Christmas Day on January 7 in the Gregorian calendar, which corresponds to December 25 in the Julian calendar. The dinner party was actually on the 14th, but what’s a few days here and there among friends?

Anyway, one of the suggestions Vicki offered me for my contribution was Krendl. Never heard of it, but when has that ever stopped me. So off to web recipe land I ventured. And this incredible bread is the result.

I changed Barbara Rolek’s recipe just a bit, but not enough to hardly notice. So thank you Barbara for what is now one of my favorite sweet breads. (And no, I am not going to wait until next Christmas to make this bread again. In fact, I am going to make it for our next JazzVox pre-concert meal.)

This bread fulfills all of the basic desires I have when it comes to sweet breads. The dough is pleasantly sweet, the filling is full of fruit (think raisins in cinnamon rolls, for example), and the glaze is perfect. There is even a slight crunch to this bread from the sliced almonds. What more could you ask??

So if you love rich and tender bread, a filling resembling a fruit compote, and thin sweet almond flavored glaze, this is the bread for you. But please don’t wait until next Christmas to make this fabulous delicacy. It would be perfect served at an Easter brunch, to accompany coffee and tea at a book club meeting, or as a special treat to leave in your break room at work, to mention just a few examples.

And to make things a little different than what you usually experience when building a filled sweet bread, the filling is made before the dough is even started. Fun, eh?

Wonder why? I leave that for you to figure out my friends.

So get out your yeast and give this recipe a try. Just be advised that this bread is going to serve about 2 dozen people. The good news is that it feeds a lot of people and also freezes well. The bad news is that you are not going to be able to stop eating it. You’re just going to have to trust me on this. I speak from way too much experience.

Filling:

  • 1 c. sweet white wine (I use Muscato) or apple juice
  • 1 lg. apple, peeled and chopped
  • 2/3 c. finely chopped dried apples
  • ½ c. finely chopped dried apricots
  • ½ c. chopped pitted dried prunes
  • 1/3 c. golden raisins
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 T. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract

In a large saucepan, combine wine, apple, dried fruits, butter, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until a jam-like consistency is obtained. Stir periodically. When desired thickness is reached, remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Cool to room temperature while you make the dough. Spread on dough as explained below.

Bread Dough:

  • 1 pkg. or 1 scant T. active dry yeast
  • 5 T. granulated sugar, divided
  • ¾ c. warm whole milk
  • ¼ c. (½ stick) unsalted butter + 3 T., room temperature
  • 2 lg. egg yolks
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and 3 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in warm milk. Let proof for about 10 minutes. After allowing the mixture to proof, add the ¼ cup butter, egg yolks, vanilla, 1½ cups of the flour, and salt; mix with your dough hook on medium speed until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be slightly tacky). Knead until smooth and elastic, about 4-6 minutes. Pour a tiny bit of oil over dough and form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 75 minutes.

Punch down dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; roll into a 32×10-in. rectangle. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter; brush over dough to within 1-inch of edges. Mix cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar; sprinkle over top. Spread with cooled fruit mixture. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam and ends to seal.

Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, seam side down. Form into a pretzel shape. (Forming the dough may make the parchment paper go all wonky, but persevere. Remember, you are dealing with paper and a piece of dough and you are the boss. Now’s the time to allow the latent bully side of your personality come to full fruition!) Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a tea towel; let rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes or until almost doubled.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack. Spoon glaze over surface while the bread is still slightly warm. Quickly decorate with sliced almonds. (The glaze will start to harden as soon as it is spooned onto the bread.) Allow glaze to set before serving.

Glaze:

  • 1 c. powdered sugar, or more as needed
  • 2 tsp. milk
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • 2-3 tsp. warm water, or more as needed
  • ¼ c. sliced almonds

Whisk the powdered sugar, milk, almond extract, and warm water together. Add additional powdered sugar or warm water to reach desired consistency. (Glaze should be fairly thick, but not so thick that it doesn’t flow slowly and evenly when spooned onto the warm bread.)

 

 

CARIBBEAN BLACK FRUITCAKE

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OK, since I started 2017 by cancelling a brunch because of icy condition on the fair isle of Camano, I might as well go the whole way and offer up a fruitcake recipe to start 2017.

Now some people might see this as a bad sign for the coming year. But those of you who know me well, or don’t know me personally, but trust me none-the-less, realize that it is not in my nature to steer you wrong!

So, if you are one of the lucky people who have experienced a truly great fruitcake in your past, let me tell you without even a quarter ounce of equivocation, that this is a fruitcake not to be missed. It is full of flavor, with a lovely moist, dense, and tender crumb. Hints of orange and the taste of exotic spices fills your mouth, while the occasional crunch from the nuts is a pleasant offset to the soft texture of the cakey part. And the best thing about this fruitcake – you can make it yourself! You don’t ever again have to pay $39.95 plus tax and shipping to enjoy a high quality, fantastic tasting holiday treat. You can do it all fairly easily in your very own kitchen.

All you need is a modicum of planning, a few interesting ingredients, a visit to a grocery store for bulk dried fruits and nuts, an internet search for burnt sugar syrup (it’s what makes the fruitcake black), and an adventurous spirit! Put it all in the oven (not the planning, internet search, or adventurous spirit, of course, but all the rest) and share this little bit of heaven with your family and friends.

And in case you were wondering where I learned to make this delightful creation, it was during our vacation to Belize. My friend Vicki and I took a class from a local chef and this recipe is as close to her recipe as was reasonable. (You had to be there to understand why I couldn’t quite match her recipe ingredient for ingredient.) (If you want to know more about our adventure while in Belize, search under “Belize” and all will be revealed.)

So faithful readers, when you are planning your holiday goodies at the end of this year, please consider making fruitcake. I know some of your family will make jokes about receiving fruitcake, like – great, we can use a slice to balance our wobbly kitchen table, or it will work as a sandbag during flooding season, or my personal favorite – we can use it as a speed bump to slow down the drag racers in our neighborhood. But their verbal lampoon will swiftly disappear with their first bite. I’ve actually known grown men (not mentioning any names here Willie) who love fruitcake so much that they will actually hide or eat most of it themselves, thus preventing their wives (Eden – one of my daughters) from partaking of this treat meant for BOTH of them! But I digress…..

So please don’t hesitate to make this recipe or the Holiday Fruitcake recipe at the bottom of this post. Both are absolutely delicious. Even the most jaded connoisseur will become a devoted fan of fruitcake if given a chance. Sandbag, indeed!

CARRIBEAN BLACK FRUITCAKE    

  • 1 c. pecans, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ c. whole raw almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 3 c. dried fruit* (apricots, cherries, blueberries, pineapple, etc.), coarsely chopped
  • ½ c. pitted dates, coarsely chopped
  • ½ c. currants
  • 4 oz. container candied orange peel
  • 4 oz. container candied red or green cherries, halved
  • 2½ c. dark rum (I used half Cruzan Aged Rum and half Myer’s Original Dark Rum)
  • ½ c. Crème Sherry

Mix together all ingredients in a 3-quart glass container with a tightfitting lid. Cover and store in a cool, dark place for 1 week.

*I used ¾ cup golden raisins, ½ cup candied pineapple pieces, ½ cup dried blueberries, ½ cup chopped candied papaya, ½ cup chopped dried apricots, and ¼ cup chopped dried cherries

For the cake batter:

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1 T. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1½ tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground clove
  • 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2¼ c. packed light brown sugar
  • 6 lg. eggs, room temperature
  • zest of lg. orange
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ c. burnt sugar syrup (Blue Mountain Country is best) (it’s what makes the cake black)

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed until light, fluffy, and pale yellow. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and return the mixer to medium speed. Add eggs one at a time, letting each mix in fully before adding the next. Add orange zest and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and return the mixer to low speed.

Drain macerated fruit and nuts. Set aside. Do not discard the left over liquid!

Add flour mixture, any unabsorbed booze from macerating the fruit, and burnt sugar to butter mixture; mix until just combined. Let the batter rest for about 2 hours. Add the drained fruit and nut mixture to the batter. Divide batter evenly between 3 buttered 9 x 5-inch or 5 buttered 8 x 3 7/8-inch loaf pans. (I personally prefer the smaller pans.)

Place a large shallow pan of water on the lowest rack in your oven.

Bake fruitcakes on a rack in the middle of a pre-heated 300 degree oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 2 hours for 9 X 5 loaf pans or 90 minutes for 8 x 3 7/8-inch loaf pans.  (The cake centers will be moist but not wet.)

Let cool completely. If you have baked the cakes in aluminum pans to give away, don’t remove the cakes from the pans. If you have baked them for your own consumption, you can leave the fruitcake in the pans or turn out of the pans and wrap in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Best if aged for a couple of weeks.

To age, store each cooled cake in a re-sealable plastic bag or covered with aluminum foil at room temperature for up to 2 months. A dark cupboard or pantry is ideal, but do not refrigerate, as the moisture level will change the texture.

HOLIDAY FRUITCAKE

  • 1 lb. dried fruit medley (peaches, pears, apricots, apples, and golden raisins or currents)
  • ½ lb. dried Bing cherries
  • 1 lb. chopped dates
  • 1 lb. candied/glazed pineapple, coarsely chopped
  • 21-oz. container red candied/glazed cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb. coarsely chopped pecans
  • 3 c. spiced rum
  • 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp. ground allspice
  • 1½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 5 lg. eggs
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt

Combine fruit, nuts, and rum in a covered glass container for 3 to 7 days. 7 days is best.

Cream butter, sugar, and spices until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Stir into butter mixture along with the macerated fruit, nuts, and any remaining liquid.

Place a large shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven to prevent the cakes from baking too dry.

Line 3 greased 9×5-inch loaf pans or 1 greased 9×5-inch and 5 greased 7×4-inch loaf pans with parchment paper and grease paper lightly. Divide the batter evenly and bake in the middle of your pre-heated 275 degree oven for 2-2½ hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on racks for one hour. Remove cakes from pan, and carefully peel off the parchment paper. When completely cool, wrap in foil and store for at least 1 month.

 

CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT SANDWICH COOKIES

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Unfortunately, my camera is not sophisticated enough to capture the pale pink color of the filling. Or perhaps, it’s user error? Bets anyone?

I wish I could say that these little darlings were invented in the Carr kitchen, but that simply would not be the truth. And it’s just too close to the time when Santa reviews his list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice for me to tell a whopping big lie to all my readers. So – I did not dream up these babies. They first appeared in a December issue (I think) of Bon Appétit, but for the life of me, I can’t recall which year. (That’s the truth so I have no fear that Santa will skip our home this Christmas, or worse yet, leave me a lump of coal!)

All I know is that I have been making these fabulous sandwich cookies now for several years. Their only fault, if one can really consider it a fault, is that they are better fresh. In other words, they don’t keep very well, so they aren’t really the best cookie to send in say, a Christmas package. Of course, given the fact that this year one of my kids Christmas goody package actually arrived the next day, I may consider sending these cookies in next year’s package. (I mailed the package in Stanwood, WA last Monday, and by Tuesday evening, my son-in-law Mark in Keizer, OR was sick from eating too many goodies.)

So in a case like this, I could easily have included some of these cookies without fear of them not arriving in a timely manner. And once they got to their destination, there would have been absolutely no reason to worry about them sitting around for days before they were consumed. Simply would not have happened. Mark would have made sure of that, at least at their house!

But Mark‘s not the only one who loves these cookies. In fact, I have friends (not going to mention any names here) that can’t even be in the same room with them (Jim), even if they are served after a large dinner (Jim), or even after dessert (Jim).

So take a hint from my friends and family, and bake up a batch or two of these delicious cookies this Christmas. Just don’t forget to set a couple aside for Santa.

Hint: At least at our house, Santa is always happiest when these cookies are left out for him along with a wee dram of Scotch. You see, my Santa is way too old for milk with his cookies. I’m betting yours is too! Ho Ho Ho

Cookies:

  • ¾ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1¾ c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • ½ c. unsweetened cocoa
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Filling:

  • ¾ c. butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. + 2 T. powdered sugar
  • ¾ tsp. good peppermint extract
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • ½ c. crushed good peppermint candy (like See’s, King Leo, or Bob’s Sweet Stripes)

Cookies: Cream butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add egg and mix until thoroughly blended. Whisk the flour, cocoa, and salt together in a small bowl. Gradually add to the butter mixture. Scoop out dough by level tablespoons or with a small ice cream scoop onto a lightly greased cookie sheet 2-inches apart. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 8-12 minutes or until the tops no longer look wet and small indentations appear when touched with a finger. Do not overbake or cookies will become too crisp. Cool on sheet for 3-4 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. When completely cool, spread 2 teaspoons of filling over flat side of one of the cookies, and top with the flat side of a second cookie, pressing gently to secure. Continue until all the cookies have been used. Store in an airtight container hidden safely in the back of a closet. (I find my broom closet is the best closet to use!)

Filling: Beat butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add peppermint extract, food coloring, and crushed peppermint candy.

 

GLÖGG

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A quick and easy Christmas gift – a bottle of Glögg and a Christmas tin filled with Speculaas (Dutch Ginger Cookies)

To me glögg is the quintessential Christmas beverage. And I know, some may argue that eggnog holds that distinction. But that’s only because they have never tasted my late friend Julie Finzimer’s sweet and spicy recipe for this warm Scandinavian holiday beverage.

Julie first served me a small cup of glögg one cold winter’s evening in (I think) 1974. I immediately asked for the recipe because I had never tasted anything like it. I knew without a doubt that this incredibly delicious drink had to become part of my own family’s Christmas tradition.

So needless to say, I have been making it ever since. And I have some wonderful memories associated with this drink. Allow me to tell you one.

One of the first Christmases that my daughter Eden and her new husband Willie spent with us, I offered Willie a cup of glögg after dinner. He nearly said no, mainly because he wasn’t overly fond of sweet drinks. But in the end he agreed to a small cup. So I warmed some up for all of us, and served the drinks with a big old plate of ginger cookies. Willie was comfortably settled in an easy chair close to the fire (a real one!) when he took his first sip. The rest of us waited while he decided if he liked the drink. He said that it was actually quite good, and could he please have some more. We warned him that glögg was almost pure alcohol, but he said he could handle it. And he did too, until after his third cup and he tried to stand up. It was only then that he realized why we had issued the warning. We still laugh when we are together, 30 some years later, about his first “glögg experience”.

So if you too love drinks that warm you through and through, give this delicious recipe a try. You won’t be sorry, unless of course you drink three cups of this potent concoction at one sitting. But then you’ve been warned, now haven’t you. Happy Christmas everyone!

  • 1 qt. water
  • 25 whole cardamom seeds
  • 40 whole cloves
  • ¾ c. raisins
  • 4 oz. (½ small container) candied orange peel
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 750ml bottle port (ruby or tawny)
  • 1 750ml bottle cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 750ml bottle brandy
  • 1½ c. granulated sugar
  • ½ c. brown sugar

Combine the water, cardamom seeds, cloves, raisins, candied orange peel, and cinnamon in a covered saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for at least 4 hours.

Strain into a large saucepan. Add the port, cabernet sauvignon, and brandy. Bring just to a hearty simmer. Remove from heat. DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL.

Meanwhile place a 2-quart saucepan, or my personal favorite, a small cast iron fry-pan over medium-high heat until the pan is warm, not hot. Add the sugar and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until all the sugar has melted. (The sugar syrup will take on a light golden brown as it melts.) Pour syrup very slowly into the large pot with spices and liquor, stirring constantly as you pour. The sugar syrup will sputter and harden when it touches the hot liquid, but will dissolve again very quickly. Add the brown sugar and stir until it too is completely dissolved. Let glögg cool before decanting into bottles. Serve very warm. Best served with ginger cookies, especially Speculaas. (Recipe on site.)

 

 

CHOCOLATE CHIP SHORTBREAD COOKIES

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I have been making these chocolate chip shortbread cookies now for several years. And why is it that I am only now getting around to posting this recipe after 2 full years of blogging, you ask? Well, the answer is quite simple. One who is addicted to something should stay away from that “something” as much as possible. And these cookies for me are a major “something”. I mean truly, what’s not to love? They are rich and buttery, not too sweet, and they contain chocolate! Plus they are ever so easy to build, and they keep well in an airtight container. Perfect, right?

So next time you need cookies for a bake sale, a special occasion, or as a gift for someone you truly like, bake up a batch of these babies. Warning: Don’t give them to someone you don’t truly care for. You will never be able to get rid of them, and I doubt that was ever your original intention! (You simply must be judicious when it comes to handing out these cookies willy-nilly!)

And truly, they are a snap to make. And if you don’t have a few different sized ice cream scoops (the ones with a lever) for scooping out balls of cookie dough (they also work for ice cream incidentally), now is the time to place your order with Santa. Because as everyone knows, Santa loves cookies more than anyone! (God knows he eats enough of them on Christmas Eve!) So how in the name of his favorite reindeer could he ever refuse your request? Just sayin’!

So happy baking everyone and Merry Christmas to all. Ho Ho Ho

  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 c. powdered sugar + more for dusting/sprinkling
  • 1 tsp. salt (only ½ tsp. salt if you use salted butter)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4½ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. mini chocolate chips

Cream butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add salt, vanilla, and flour. Mix only until blended. Do not overmix. Add chocolate chips. Using a small ice cream scoop, drop balls on an ungreased baking sheet a scant 2-inches apart. Flatten balls slightly with the bottom of a small drinking glass. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until the bottom is a nice golden brown. Don’t under-bake. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle/dust* with powdered sugar while still warm. When completely cooled, store in an air-tight container.

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Cookies just out of the oven and ready for their powdered sugar dusting.

*An easy way to sprinkle/dust powdered sugar is to place a small amount in a fine mesh strainer and then shake the strainer over whatever you wish to decorate. This same technique works well with cocoa for chocolate dusting.