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My holiday baking got off to a late start this year.  There are still many edible holiday treats still on my to-do list, but this was one recipe I was not going to let pass.  In fact, this the only batch of holiday cookies that I was able to fit into my schedule this year.   They are so tasty!

Chocolate Candy Cane Crackle Cookies combine rich fudgy chocolate with a hint of peppermint flavor and crunch from candy canes and peppermint schnapps.  If you like dark chocolate and peppermint, these should definitely be on your “To Bake” list. The recipe is based on one from Dorie Greenspan that ran in the November 2006 Bon Appetit.  I made the original recipe years ago and enjoyed it very much.  The seasoning (cloves and cinnamon), make it more of an adult flavored cookie.  My adaptation below follows Dorie’s basic recipe, but leaves out the spices.  In their place are chunks of candy canes and a touch of peppermint schnapps. (Finally a use for that bottle I picked up at a white elephant gift exchange last year!)

There are a few things to keep in mind when you make these cookies.  First, the candy cane chunks are bound to melt in the oven.  There is nothing really wrong with this since they will still impart their flavor, but if you, like me, want to be able to see the candy canes in the final product, be sure to leave the chunks rather big (1/4 to 1/3 inch long).  Second, the dough is tough to work with.  It is super dry and firm and  tough to roll in your hands.  Both my kids were helping to roll and we ended up with chocolate crumbs everywhere and a bunch of squarish cookies.  The good news is, it does not really matter.  The cookies will still taste great.  Lastly, do not overcook these cookies.  Since the dough is so dry, it is much better to undercook them.  Think of brownies.  You want to pull them when the dough just begins to set, but is not completely cooked through.

My happy helpers bagged these up and delivered them to our friends and neighbors.  What are your favorite cookies to bake during this time of year?

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Soft Ginger Cookies

November 26, 2011

Perhaps it is illogical to bake the day after Thanksgiving.  Perhaps I should be following up a long run in the rain with salad and a nap.  But on the other hand, it may be best to let oneself down easy after a big feast.  No use going cold turkey (pun intended) on the rich food when the air is cool, and everyone is still lounging around the house enjoying the long weekend.  Why not break out the butter that did not make its way in the mashed potatoes make up some delicious treats?  When you really think about it, cookies seem to be an appropriate coda to the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Soft Ginger Cookies are tender, buttery, intensely ginger flavored treats.  Roll the chilled dough in balls and then spin through a dish of sugar to give each cookie a sparkly look.  Slices of candied ginger add a decorative touch, as well a strong gingery spice.

This recipe makes a generous number of cookies, which provides a good excuse to drop in on your neighbors and friends.  You can also form the cookies and  freeze them to bake up later.

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Oatmeal Jam Bars

April 22, 2011

With Easter around the corner, the house is a buzz with preparations for the Easter bunny.  The chickens are busy laying eggs, the kids are dying them and collecting greens from the garden to leave for a bunny snack.  As the Easter bunny’s executive assistant, I have collected some items for the bunny to present the children.  We  (the grown-ups at least) are not big on candy in our house (especially when the kids would presumably start eating it upon rising and discovering their baskets.)

So this year, there are books, stickers, and as a compromise, a small cache of jelly beans.  I wanted there to be something special as well, something beautiful, exciting, sweet, but not so over the top that I would cringe as my kids ripped into them at 7 am.  Ah ha!  This year the Easter Bunny takes up baking!

Strolling through the supermarket aisles, I found a large cookie cutter in the shape of an egg.  Inspired, I sought out a recipe for an oat bar which I would top with jam to create a colorful egg-shaped cookie bar.  After an extensive search, I settled on a recipe for Raspberry Breakfast Bars from Deb at Smitten Kitchen.  Since my pantry is still full of jam, I adapted the recipe to skip the raspberry filling (though it looks quite good and I may revisit it in raspberry season) and use my homemade jam instead.  I also added coconut flakes to the crust, just because I am on a coconut kick right now.
The real trick here was to figure out a way to make sure the jam would show through.  The original recipe calls for the crumb topping to cover the entire bar, but I wanted colorful polka dots of jam.  To accomplish this, I  tried multiple methods and settled on dotting the top of the crust with jam.  Once cool, I cut them into egg shapes and bagged them individually for the Easter bunny to present.  Mmmm, the smell of these bars is out of control.

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