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Tue, Oct. 22

Start holiday tradition of baking cookies with kids

This column marks five years of sharing recipes with all of you! Here are some new ones to try as the holiday baking season gets in full swing. Include kids in the preparations and create some fun traditions!

HOMEMADE ALMOND PASTE

If you don't want to buy this not-often-used product, this will keep in your refrigerator one month or in a freezer for three. A baking friend may also like this as a gift.

1-1/2 cups blanched almonds

1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1 egg white

1-1/2 tsp. almond extract

1/4 tsp. salt

Place almonds in food processor; cover and process until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar, egg white, extract and salt; cover and process until smooth. Divide almond paste into 1/2-cup portions; place in airtight containers. Makes 1-1/2 cups.

WALNUT CRANBERRY BUTTER

This can be a nice hostess gift or a great spread for sandwiches, toast, any warm bread or biscuits.

3/4 cup butter, softened (must use real butter as low-fat has water added and doesn't work.)

2 tbsp. each brown sugar and honey

1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped

2 tbsp. chopped walnuts, toasted

In small mixing bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and honey until fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add cranberries and walnuts; beat 5 minutes longer or until butter turns pink. Transfer to

sheet of plastic wrap; roll into a log. Refrigerate until chilled. Unwrap and slice or place on butter dish. Makes 1 1/3 cups.

CHINESE ALMOND COOKIES

These make five dozen, and kids can help with rolling into balls, flattening with forks, and brushing egg whites on top.

1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. almond extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 egg white

1/2 tsp. water

In bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and extract. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Roll into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with fork. Sprinkle with almonds. In small bowl, beat egg white and water. Brush over cookies. Bake at 325 degrees for 14-16 minutes or until edges and bottoms are lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.

PEANUT TOFFEE CHIP COOKIES

This is an example of a cookie whose dough can be made ahead, frozen, and baked later. (See below for dough-freezing tips.)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups cake flour (not self-rising flour) (*Homemade cake flour: Measure one cup all-purpose flour, then remove 2 tbsp. from the one cup)

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups toffee chips

2-1/2 cups coarsely-chopped peanuts

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In bowl, whisk both flours, baking soda and salt. In bowl with electric mixer, combine butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until combined. Add flour mixture beating just until combined on low speed. Using a wooden spoon stir in toffee chips and peanuts. Form into 1-1/2 inch balls.

Dough may be frozen at this point, wrapping well in plastic, up to one month. Thaw before baking as directed. To bake now place dough on prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly with hand. Bake until golden and just set, 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking (top to bottom and back to front). Remove baking sheets to wire rack, letting cookies cool 5 minutes. Then cool cookies directly on racks completely. Store in

airtight cookies at room temperature up to one week. NOTE: These are good gift cookies

as they can be made up to one week ahead and still be fresh when giving. Makes about five dozen cookies.

***

A few baking tips for those who are baking now and freezing: Butter-based sweets freeze best. For Bundt and pound cakes, brownies and cookies, cool first, then freeze to develop flavor. Pack airtight, getting out as much air as possible if using plastic wrap vs.

containers. Freeze fruit pies raw, but right after assembling. Baking the day of the meal is best.

COOKIE TIPS: Don't store different kinds in same tin, jar, etc., as flavors merge. Use tight lids on soft and loose wrap on crisp cookies. Cool trays between baking so cookies won't spread out on hot trays.

FREEZING COOKIE DOUGH: Many are using the purchased kind, but if you have a spare minute you can mix up dough, freeze and bake later. Most dough freezes up to six months. You can use a small ice cream scooper to form evenly-sized balls; freeze on a baking sheet, then store in a plastic bag. Pop out as many as you want and bake. If not thawed (which you can do in the refrigerator if you have time), add a minute or two to baking time. Bar cookies should be baked first before freezing. Experiment and use year after year to simplify your personal baking.

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