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Lemon Bars with a Twist of Lime

Lemon Bars with a Twist of Lime
 
Author:
Serves: 16 squares
 
Grated lime zest in the crust deepens the citrus flavor of these popular bar cookies.
Ingredients
Crust:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon very finely grated lime zest
Topping:
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Sifted confectioners' sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Make the crust: Mix the flour, butter, confectioners' sugar, and lime zest on low speed (or with a wooden spoon), just until mixed. Pat dough evenly into an ungreased 8-inch square cake pan.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes, until crust is firm to the touch but not browned. Remove from the oven.
  4. While the crust bakes, prepare the topping. Beat eggs, granulated sugar, and lemon and lime juices on medium speed for about 8 minutes, until mixture is a pale lemon color. Mix in flour and baking powder, and beat just until combined.
  5. Pour topping over hot crust. Return to the oven and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until filling is firm to the touch and does not wiggle.
  6. Let cool completely in the pan, then refrigerate for 15 minutes. With a small, sharp knife, cut evenly into squares. If filling starts to stick to knife, wipe knife blade off frequently with a wet paper towel. Remove cookies from pan with a small spatula.
  7. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar just before serving.
3.1.09

Chinese Almond Cookies

Chinese Almond Cookies
 
Author:
Serves: 48 cookies
 
When my children (who are of Asian ancestry) were younger, I threw a big party annually to celebrate the arrival of the Chinese/Vietnamese new year, and every year these cookies disappeared in record time.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped blanched almonds (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray or lightly grease baking sheets.
  2. Cream butter and shortening with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and egg yolks, one at a time, then beat in almond extract. Whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Stir into egg mixture until well blended.
  3. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll into 1-inch balls. (If dough is too soft to handle, refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.) If desired, roll tops of balls in chopped almonds. Place on prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1½ inches between cookies.
  4. Bake in the center of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until cookies are golden, flattened, and crackled on top. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Vanilla Crescents

Vanilla Crescents
 
Author:
Serves: 48 cookies
 
These melt-in-the-mouth, buttery-nutty cookies are a favorite in Austria, Germany, and other European countries. For a change of pace, try a whole wheat version. These cookies really should sit for a week or more to fully develop the vanilla flavor.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at cool room temperature
  • ½ cup confectioners' sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped (reserve pod)
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) almonds, finely ground
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with ½ cup confectioners' sugar and the salt until creamy. Beat in the vanilla scrapings and egg yolk, then beat in the flour and almonds on low speed to make a stiff dough.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until set but not brown. Let stand on cookie sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack.
  4. While still warm, dust with confectioners' sugar. Let cool, then dust again with sugar.
  5. Store in an airtight tin with the vanilla bean pod (if you used a vanilla bean). These taste best if left to "age" a week or longer.

Double Gingersnaps

Double Gingersnaps
 
Serves: 60 cookies
 
These are gingery and crunchy—just like good gingersnaps should be. They keep well, too, making them great for baking in advance and freezing or for mailing. Serve them on a holiday-themed plate, with chopped crystallized ginger scattered around the rim.
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅔ cup unsulfured molasses
  • ¼ cup finely minced crystallized ginger
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease or spray cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the molasses. On low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture just until mixed. The dough will be medium-soft. If it is too sticky to handle, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll into balls slightly smaller than 1 inch in diameter between your palms. Place on the prepared cookies sheets, spacing them 1½ inches apart. Press each ball lightly with the bottom of a drinking glass, then top each cookie with a few pieces of crystallized ginger.
  5. Bake in the center of the oven until slightly flattened, crackled on top, and golden on the bottom, 9 to 11 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  • From Very Merry Cookie Party: How to Plan and Host a Cookie Exchange, by Barbara Grunes and Virginia Van Vynckt (Chronicle Books, 2010)

Apricot Bars

Apricot Bars
 
Serves: Makes 36 small bars
 
These apricot-filled bars are rich and sweet, so you can cut them smaller than many other bar cookies.
Ingredients
Crust:
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
Filling:
  • ¾ cup dried apricots, chopped
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • ¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease or spray a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. Prepare the crust. In a food processor, combine the butter, flour, and sugar and pulse for a few seconds until a crumbly dough forms. Remove half of the mixture from the processor and set aside to use for the topping. Pat the remaining half of the mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
  3. Bake in the center of the oven until lightly golden, about 20 minutes.
  4. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the dried apricots and water over medium heat. Cook until all of the water is absorbed and the apricots are soft, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer the apricots to the food processor and process to a smooth paste. Add the apricot preserves, brown sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla and process until thoroughly combined.
  6. Remove the crust from the oven. Using a rubber or icing spatula, carefully spread the filling evenly over the hot crust. Then sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly over the filling.
  7. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Using a sharp knife, cut into bars, dipping the knife into hot water and wiping it dry before each cut. Carefully remove the bars from the pan with a small offset spatula or an icing spatula.
  • From Very Merry Cookie Party: How to Plan and Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange,  by Barbara Grunes and Virginia Van Vynckt (Chronicle Books, 2010)

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

Eggnog Snickerdoodles
 
Serves: 48 cookies
 
Snickerdoodles, sugar cookies with a crackled top popular in the Midwest, are normally dusted with cinnamon sugar. Adding a bit of rum flavoring and replacing most of the cinnamon with nutmeg gives a flavor reminiscent of eggnog. Serve these with eggnog or chai lattes.
Ingredients
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons rum extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease or spray cookie sheets.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup of the sugar, the cinnamon, and the nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter, shortening, and the remaining 1½ cups sugar on medium speed until light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the rum extract. On low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture just until mixed.
  5. Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll into 1¼-inch balls between your palms. (If the dough is too soft to handle, refrigerate it for 15 to 30 minutes and try again.) Roll the balls in the cinnamon-nutmeg sugar to coat evenly. Place on the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them at least 1½ inches apart.
  6. Bake in the center of the oven until golden and cracked on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
From Very Merry Cookie Party: How to Plan and Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange, by Barbara Grunes and Virginia Van Vynckt (Chronicle Books, 2010)

Our cookie exchange cookbook

Very Merry Cookie Party: How to Plan and Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange
has just been published by Chronicle Books. Barbara Grunes and I worked very hard to make this a great book. As the title suggests, we offer suggestions on planning and hosting an exchange, but the book’s real treasure is the recipes. We created more than 100 recipes for cookies that look and taste great–the kind of better-than-ordinary cookies you would exchange at Christmas: Double Gingersnaps, Eggnog Snickerdoodles, Poinsettia Cookies, Lemon Iced Cookies, Santa S’Mores, and much more. The recipes are accompanied by suggestions on how to present them to look their best at a party. This would make a great holiday gift for anyone who likes to bake cookies.

Check out some sample recipes from Very Merry Cookie Party

NOTE: Amazon is selling this book for $5. We have no idea why (probably they overstocked it), but what a bargain! Stock up and save these for holiday gifts. This is a gorgeous book and the recipes are great.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies

Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies
 
Author:
Serves: 36 to 40 cookies
 
This is the traditional sandy-crunchy peanut butter cookie. You can use all butter instead of butter and shortening, but the shortening makes a crunchier cookie.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease or spray cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, shortening, peanut butter, and sugar on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, then the vanilla. On low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture just until mixed. The dough will be stiff.
  4. Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll between your palms into 1⅛-inch balls. Place on the cookie sheets, spacing them about 1½ inches apart. Press the tines of a fork into the top of the cookie, then press again at right angles, to make a crosshatch design.
  5. Bake in the center of the oven until the edges are beginning to turn golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheets for about 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Linzer Bars

Linzer Torte Squares
 
Author:
Serves: 36 small squares
 
Cutting a Linzer torte into small squares instead of wedges makes cookies that are both gooey and elegant, with a jewel-like filling. If you prefer, you can bake the dough and filling in a 9-inch round pan and cut the torte into the traditional wedges.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) seedless raspberry jam
  • Sifted confectioners' sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Use a nonstick 9-inch square baking pan, or use a regular pan and lightly grease or spray it.
  2. Mix butter and flour on medium speed until well blended. Mix in cocoa, almonds, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, salt, lemon zest, egg yolks, and vanilla to make a soft dough. Gather dough into a ball. Divide it in half.
  3. Gently pat half of the dough into the baking pan, building up a ½-inch ridge around edges. Using the back of a spoon, spread jam evenly over crust. Set aside.
  4. Roll remaining dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper to ¼-inch thickness. (If dough is too soft and sticky to roll, wrap in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for 30 minutes.) Remove top sheet of waxed paper and cut dough into ¼-inch-wide strips. Place dough strips over jam-filled crust in a lattice design. It will be necessary to piece together some of the strips to make them fit.
  5. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes, or until lattice crust is firm. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan. Cut into small squares, and remove from pan carefully with a wide knife.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie, Revised

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie, Revised
 
Author:
Serves: 2 dozen
 
This is my variation on the classic Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe. It makes a cookie that is a bit less sweet and a little thicker and softer than the original. I also like to make the cookies a bit larger.
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (12-ounce) package (2 cups) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease or spray cookie sheets.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and eggs. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients just until mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
  4. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until golden. Let cool on the cookie sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.