Yes, they are Magic Cookie Bars

So you don’t consider yourself much of a baker, yet you’ve gotten yourself into the position of having to provide something for your child’s class/a pot luck/coffee hour. You need something fool proof, and oh, also fast because you just haven’t got the time for this.

Magic cookie bars will save you. They are fast, they are ridiculously easy, and unless you leave them in the oven for an hour and accidentally burn them to a crisp, they are foolproof. Also, everybody loves them.

I made a batch today, with some red and green candied chocolate chips sprinkles on top to make them extra festive. You can throw together a batch in the time it takes you to read this post.

Magic Cookie Bars

Magic Cookie Bars

  • 4 oz. butter
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 1/3 cups coconut
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I use pecans, but any nut will do)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Line a 13×9 inch pan with foil.
  3. Put the butter in the pan and the pan in the preheating oven.
  4. When the butter is melted, remove the pan and sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over the butter.
  5. Mix the two together and press the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  6. Drizzle the condensed milk evenly over the crumb crust.
  7. Top with remaining ingredients then press down on them firmly.
  8. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until browned around the edges.
  9. Cool thoroughly before cutting. (I flip the whole thing upside down on a cutting board, peel off the foil, and cut it into squares while it is still upside down. I find it easier to work with this way).
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Ginger Crinkles

Before we get to the cookie of the day, here is a picture of the gingerbread house I just finished decorating for my friend Daryle. He works in IT. He wanted a cloud computing house. Cloud Computing GIngerbread House

Right, now on to day 15 of the Christmas Cookie Countdown. This is one of my most requested cookies. They are soft and chewy, and spicy with a double hit of ginger. They are also one of the easiest cookies to make.

Ginger Crinkles

My friend Sue was looking for a ginger cookie recipe recently. Sue, this is for you. This one is adapted from Alice Medrich’s Cookies and Brownies.

Ginger Crinkles

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • coarse white sugar for decorating (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream the butter with the molasses and sugars.
  3. Beat in the ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.
  4. Beat in the egg.
  5. Stir in the flour and crystallized ginger until just blended.
  6. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls.
  7. Roll the balls in the coarse sugar (if using) and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  8. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the puff up, crack, and deflate.

Auntie Mary’s

Aunty Mary'sI don’t know whose aunt Mary is responsible for this cookie. It’s certainly not mine. I don’t even have an aunt Mary. Whoever she is, though, she makes a fine cookie.

The first time I made these, I tasted one, thought it was OK, and walked away to do other things. Within 10 minutes I was back, just to try one more, and later one more, and just one more. I couldn’t stop nibbling on them.

They are made from a brown sugar cream cheese dough and filled with chocolate and walnuts. You can skip the walnuts if you don’t like them. It’s still worth making these.

The dough is rolled out, filled with the chocolate, then rolled up into a log and baked. They are cut into cookies only after they are cooled.

Technically, they are supposed to be covered with a blanket of powdered sugar after cutting, but I always skip that part.

 

Auntie Mary’s

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 recipe chocolate filling (below)
  1. Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugars until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the egg, vanilla, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Stir in the flour until just blended.
  4. Divide dough into 4ths, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 350.
  6. Roll each dough packet into a 10×6 inch rectangle.
  7. Spread 1/4 of the filling lengthwise down the middle of each rectangle.
  8. Fold the dough in thirds over the filling and place the logs on a parchment lined baking sheet, with the seam side down.
  9. Bake 20 minutes.
  10. When cool, trim the ends off each log, and slice it into 12 pieces.

Chocolate Filling

  • 2/3 c. condensed milk
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  1. Combine the condensed milk with the chocolate in a saucepan, and heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted.
  2. Stir in the walnuts.
  3. Cool to room temperature.

Browned Butter Sand Cookies

Browned Butter Sand CookiesStop what you are doing and make these. Make these now. If you’ve had browned butter cookies before, you know about the lovely, toasty flavor they have. Make browned butter sand cookies and you have created the best browned butter cookie there is.

Browned Butter Sand Cookies

  • 1 c. butter
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • pecan halves
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. One butter is melted keep heating it, stirring constantly, until it turns golden brown. It will foam while it browns. This is normal.
  2. Remove butter from heat. Carefully pour the clear part into a mixing bowl, leaving as many solids behind as possible.
  3. Refrigerate until butter is firm.
  4. Preheat the oven to 300.
  5. Cream butter with sugar.
  6. Beat in baking powder and vanilla.
  7. Beat in the flour. At first it will seem like there is nothing but sandy crumbs in the bowl, and you will find yourself thinking that it will never turn into dough, but it will. Keep beating.
  8. Pinch off tablespoons of dough, roll them into balls, and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  9. Press a pecan half into the top of each ball flattening it as you do so.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are light brown.
  11. Let sit a few minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack.

Rugelach, Which Isn’t Technically a Christmas Cookie

Today’s cookie is rugelach, in honour of the Jewish side of my family. I will pretend this recipe is for Chanukah, even though in reality I make it every December, whether it is currently Chanukah or not.Apricot Rugelach

Rugelach are delicious, no matter what holiday you celebrate. And they are versatile. They are little packets of dough you can fill with pretty much anything you like. My favourite is apricot jam. A cinnamon/sugar/raisin/walnut mixture is traditional. This year I filled some with pistachio paste, and some with Nutella. I’ve even been known to make them savoury, with black olive tapenade.

My favourite recipe uses a cream cheese dough, which makes a lovely, tender, cookie. How you handle the dough is important here, though. Do not over mix it once you add the flour, or they will be tough.

Rugelach

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 8 oz. butter
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Jam, Nutella, or whatever else you want to fill them with
  1. Beat the cream cheese with the butter until well blended.
  2. Beat in the sugar, salt, and vanilla.
  3. Stir in the flour until just blended.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and wrap each piece in plastic.
  5. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 350.
  7. Remove dough from the ridge, and roll each piece into a circle, about 1/8 inch thick.
  8. Spread the filling of your choice over the dough, right to the edges.
  9. Using a sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges, like you were cutting a pizza.
  10. Roll each wedge up into a little crescent shape. Start at the thick end and roll towards the point.
  11. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.

 

 

My Beloved Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen is the quintessential German Christmas cookie. A well made Lebkuchen is a wonderful combination of crispy glazed shell and chewy, toothsome interior, subtly but perfectly flavored with rum, citrus, nuts and spices.

Elisen LebkuchenAt least that is the case for Elisen Lebkuchen. Technically, there are many different kinds, like the way there are many different kinds of gingerbread in English speaking countries. Elisen Lebkuchen is the one that matters, though. It’s the one that appears in all the German bakeries and at all the Christmas markets this time of year.

I spent years trying to figure out how to make it at home. I lost count of the number of recipes I tried. None were right. None were even close to right. This bothered me to no end. I just couldn’t figure it out. Then, one day, an Austrian friend took pity on my and gave me her recipe. And that was it. It was exactly what I was looking for. And now I shall share it with you.

It uses a very different method than most cookies. The process is more like a cake, really. There is no butter or other fat in them, and the eggs are beaten with the sugar as though you were making a whole egg meringue.

The Germans bake these cookies on what they call Back-Oblaten. They look and taste like communion wafers, and they take the place of greasing the pan or using parchment. The cookie dough is mounded and baked on top of them. Use them if you can get them. If not, line your baking sheet with parchment and proceed as usual.

Also, these are best when aged for a couple of weeks. If you want them for Christmas, make them now.

Elisen Lebkuchen

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp rum
  • 1/4 tsp lemon extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 lb ground almonds
  • 1/2 lb ground hazelnuts
  • 4 oz candied citron, finely diced
  • Back-Oblaten (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Grind the nuts, including their skins until flour-like.
  3. Mix together flour, salt, baking powder, and spices and set aside.
  4. Beat together eggs & sugar until fluffy & pale yellow. This will take several minutes.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture then add the extracts and rum, ground nuts and citron.
  6. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough on the Oblaten. Using a wet knife or finger, smooth dough into a dome shape.
  7. Bake for 30 minĀ  until top is golden and edges are light brown. Brush with glaze (recipe follows) while still hot.
  8. Place in a tightly sealed tin and age for at least two weeks before eating.

Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  1. Mix together glaze ingredients. If mix thickens too much to spread thin it with little hot water.

Lemon Almond Stars

Almond Lemon StarsThe recipe for day 10 of the Christmas Cookie Countdown came about because I had too many lemons lying around. So I made lemon curd.

I have THE BEST recipe for lemon curd. It is so good I had to use caps lock. I paired it with almond sugar cookies, which I cut into bite-sized stars. Originally I had planned to top them with almond icing, but I liked them so much like this I left them plain, then spent half an hour stacking and re-stacking them into a miniature almond lemon cookie Christmas tree.

I’m giving you the lemon curd recipe, which uses an untraditional but far superior method from any other I’ve ever seen. It’s from the May 1998 issue of Fine Cooking magazine. Below that is my recipe for almond cut-out cookies. These are sandwich cookies. I leave it to you to figure out how to put the two elements together. I’m sure you can.

Lemon Curd

  • 6 T. butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice (I prefer a blend of regular and meyer lemons if you can find them)
  1. Beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, as though you were making a cake.
  2. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks.
  3. Beat in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but this is OK.
  4. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, until it looks smooth.
  5. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook and stir until it thickens noteceably. Do NOT let it boil. If you start to see steam rising form it, turn the heat off immediately.
  6. Set aside to cool.

Almond Cut-Outs

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup ground blanched almonds
  • 3 cups flour
  1. Cream the butter with the sugar.
  2. Beat in the salt, baking powder, and extract.
  3. Beat in the eggs.
  4. Stir in the flour and almonds until just blended.
  5. Divide dough in half, wrap each in plastic and chill for at east 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350.
  7. Roll dough out on a floured surface, cut out cookies.
  8. Bake cookies on a parchment lined pan until the edges brown, about 7-12 minutes depending on their size.