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Archive | December 11th, 2009

Noel Bars

Noel Bars

cookies1This recipe is simple — melt butter in 9-by-9-inch baking pan and pour in an uncomplicated mix that includes — brown sugar, vanilla extract and chopped pecans. You use very little flour. The results are joyous, indeed.

Noel Bars

2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 9-by-9-inch baking pan, melt the butter (I just put the pan in the heating oven).  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add brown sugar and nuts. Stir in eggs and vanilla and mix well. Pour this mixture carefully over the melted butter in the baking pan. Do not stir once it is in the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Take out of the oven and quickly turn the “cake” onto a cutting board or clean counter, otherwise it wants to stick to the pan. After it’s cooled, cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar. (If you have time, you can use a stencil of the word “Noel” or use red or green icing to write the word.)

Note: The best way to dust with powdered sugar is to have either a small sifter or a small wire mesh strainer. Tap these gently over the cookies for a light coating of sugar. Also, if you have an extra salt shaker, with large enough holes on top, these sometimes are good for powdered sugar dusting, too. (Be sure the salt is out of it, though!)

Makes 9 squares, or more if you cut into bars.

From Lisa Krueger

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Nutmeg Cookie Logs

Nutmeg Cookie Logs

cookies6I am partial to frosted cookies. That little bit of extra work just seems to really make them special. This cookie, which is like a shortbread, is frosted, then scored with the tines of a fork and dusted with ground nutmeg to look like a tiny Yule log. So pretty — but you’ll eat ’em up. (I like to keep them cool in the fridge, seem to taste better that way …)

Nutmeg Cookie Logs

1 cup  (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 unbeaten egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons rum or 1/2 teaspoon rum extract
3 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Frosting:
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons rum or 1 teaspoon rum extract
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 scant tablespoon heavy cream or half-and-half
Ground nutmeg for dusting cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together well the butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla and rum; mix well. Sift together the flour, nutmeg and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed ingredients and mix well. Shape dough into long logs, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into short lengths of about 3 inches. Bake for 10 minutes, just until cookies start to turn slightly brown around the bottom edges.  Don’t overbake. Let them cool.

For frosting: Mix together in a mixer or with a hand mixer the butter, vanilla, rum, powdered sugar and cream. Frost the cooled cookies. Then, run the tines of a fork gently through the frosting to make striations, like on a log. Dust with ground nutmeg.

Makes 24-30 cookies.

From Judy Smith

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Grandma’s Molasses Cookies

Grandma’s Molasses Cookies

cookies3A plateful of these cookies was always ready for us when we visited my grandmother, Alberta Walker. She made many other wonderful dishes, but this was a Christmas specialty that we tasted year-round.

Grandma’s Molasses Cookies

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 cup sugar, plus more sugar to roll cookies in
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie pans with parchment; if you don’t have parchment, just use the pans as usual.

Measure the flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt and soda into a mixing bowl. Blend together the sugar, shortening and butter until well mixed. Beat the egg with the molasses, then mix into the sugar and shortening blend. Pour this wet mixture into the dry and mix together well. Make small balls (not much more than 1 1/2-inches thick) and roll them in sugar. Place them on the baking sheet and give them plenty of room. I put 12 on a regular-sized baking sheet.

Bake them for 10 minutes, or until the edges around the bottom just begin to brown. If you like softer, moister cookies, take them out (the tops will have puffed and cracked a little and might not look done to you — but this is when I like to take them out).  If you like a drier, snappier cookie, leave them in until the tops are beginning to brown, too.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

From Alberta Walker/Bonnie Walker

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Grandma’s Christmas Cookies, Full of Butter, Nuts, Spice

Grandma’s Christmas Cookies, Full of Butter, Nuts, Spice

cookies5

Every cookie baker knows they keep a little bit of  history in their recipe files.

cookies3When I go digging into the cabinet that houses the bottle of molasses, I never fail to think of my paternal grandmother, Alberta Walker.  She was a tomboy while growing up in Iowa, she always told us. But when she was 17,  she and her boyfriend, my grandfather, Dave Walker, left for a neighboring town one Saturday morning, telling their parents they were going to the fair. They got married, returned to their hometown and continued to live in their respective parents’ homes, not telling anyone they’d eloped, for quite some time.

She passed away more than 15 years ago. She may have been a tomboy in her youth, but she turned into an excellent cook and baker. One of the many things we remember about her was her gingery Molasses Cookies. A plateful of these were always waiting for us when we visited. She gave us the recipe, and my mother and I tried for many years to make our cookies come out like hers. We finally figured out, with some embarrassment, that we were leaving them in the oven too long. These aren’t crunchy gingersnaps, but moist cookies that are chewy and delectable.

cookies1Noel Bars came from my sister-in-law, Lisa Krueger, years ago. They aren’t fancy to look at, but just one bite turned me into a wide-eyed believer. When I asked her for the recipe, she said she’d go look in her mom’s old red-and-white cookbook. She didn’t find the cookbook. But she e-mailed me an image of the recipe card, smeared with ink, speckled with age spots and no doubt some ancient remnants of cookie dough, too.

When I say the Noel Bars weren’t fancy, I should add that the reason for their name is that you are supposed to write the word “Noel” on each bar in green icing before serving. “That never happened at our house,” said Lisa.  I didn’t have to ask why.

Finally, the Nutmeg Cookie Logs are a longtime favorite of mine. I had asked a friend, Judy Smith, for the recipe when she and I were reporters together in Prescott, Ariz. When I got married, I not only received this recipe but an entire file of recipes, neatly printed on index cards, from her own collection of favorites.  It has been 21 years, but I still treasure them.

cookies2Another memory I have of these cookies also always makes me smile. I worked here with a young reporter, Dee Dixon, for several years. One Christmas at work we had a cookie exchange. I say “one” Christmas because I was in charge of it and was amazed at how much coordination it took. My other contribution was a plate of Nutmeg Cookie Logs. My friend took one look at them and turned up her nose. “Wa-ay too much work,” she sniffed. But I noticed it wasn’t at all difficult for her to eat them up.

Too much work? Well, you have to roll out the dough into long logs, then cut them into shorter logs. After they are baked and cooled, you frost them with a buttercream icing, then pull the tines of a fork through the icing and sprinkle on ground nutmeg. They sort of look like little Yule logs. They taste amazingly good.

Finally, while some like to serve eggnog or punch or other sweet drinks with Christmas cookies, I’ll always vote for one of two things — good, strong hot coffee or a glass of cold milk. And, that’s my own tradition.

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Latkes Available at Roaring Fork

Latkes Available at Roaring Fork

Latkes are available at Roaring Fork, 1806 N. Loop 1604 W., during the Hanukkah season.

The fried potato pancakes will be available Saturday through Dec. 19.

Latkes are traditionally eaten during Hanukkah to commemorate the oil that miraculously burned for eight days when the temple was rededicated more than 2,000 years ago. (Click here for more history.)

“Growing up, I looked forward to latkes at the dinner table this time of year, so seeing them at Roaring Fork brings back a lot of memories,” said Babra Hamil, general manager of Roaring Fork. “This is the start of a great tradition at the restaurant.”

“Latkes are going to be a perfect fit for just about everything from our freshly flown-in salmon to the new rack of lamb,” said Harold Marmulstein, executive chef of the restaurant. “You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate potato pancakes with entrees from our wood-fired oven, grill or rotisserie.”

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