Few holiday traditions say Christmas quite like baking cookies. Whether we make cut-out and shaped, decorated, refrigerator, rolled, filled, dropped, pressed or fruity squares, they all have a delicious place in our holidays.
Most of us remember “helping” our moms bake and decorate cookies, or we’ve had the “help” of our children. It was fun, and most of all, the results were delicious.
Colorful and varied cookie gifts are welcomed wherever they are taken, or given, I have discovered.
Before I start my annual cookie baking frenzy for the upcoming holidays, I sift through the piles of cookie recipes I’ve gathered over the years, some from my mother, others from newspapers and magazines, still others from friends and family who have shared their cookies, and their recipes, with me.
This column and the next will be devoted to the fabulous cookie. Research has shown that cookies were invented by accident.
Early cooks used a small amount of cake batter to test the oven temperature before baking a large cake. These little cakes were a hit.
The test cakes were called “koekje,” which translates into little cake in the Dutch language. It was Dutch, English and Scots immigrants who introduced these little cakes, or cookies, to us in the 19th century. Now, more than 95 percent of United States households eat cookies, adding up to more than two billion a year. I’ll bet a majority of these cookies are eaten between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
Let’s bake refrigerator cookies this week. These are among my favorites. These are most conveniently prepared and baked when other tasks must be done since they should be placed in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before baking.
Date Swirl Cookies (about 3 dozen)
1 8-ounce package chopped and pitted dates
three-quarters cup white sugar, divided
one-quarter cup water
one-half cup softened butter or butter substitute
one-half cup packed brown sugar
2 cups flour
one-half teaspoon baking soda
one-half teaspoon cinnamon
one-half teaspoon salt
Combine the dates, one-quarter cup white sugar and water in a saucepan, and cook, stirring often, over low heat until the dates are soft. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, beat together the butter, half-cup white and half-cup brown sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in the egg. Place the remaining dry ingredients in a bowl and combine. Add the dry mixture to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix well.
On a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a 10-by-14-inch rectangle. Evenly spread the cooked date mixture on the cookie dough. Roll up from the long end. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and secure tightly. Place in the refrigerator or freezer for at least two hours. When ready to bake, unwrap the dough and using a sharp knife, cut into quarter-inch slices.
Place each slice on ungreased or parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheets and let cool completely on wire racks.
The following pinwheel recipe was my first experience with refrigerator cookies. It remains one of my all-time favorites.
Pinwheel Cookies (about 4 dozen)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
one-quarter teaspoon salt
one-quarter cup softened butter or butter substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
Cream the sugar, salt and butter thoroughly. Beat the egg and vanilla into the sugar mixture until fluffy.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Gradually stir in the egg mixture.
Divide dough in half. Roll half the dough to a one-eighth inch thickness on a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper to form a 9x12-inch rectangle. Set aside.
Stir the cocoa powder into the unrolled half of the dough, then roll out to a 9x12-inch rectangle. Place the chocolate layer atop the butterscotch layer. Trim if necessary. Remove the waxed paper.
Roll up the two layers from the long end, like rolling a jelly roll. Wrap in waxed paper and chill or freeze for two or more hours. When ready to bake, cut cookies one-eighth inch thick and place on lightly greased, or parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown. Remove from cookie sheets and let cool on wire racks.
Next time, several filled cookie recipes perfect for all the Santas in your home.
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