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Getting into the spirit of cookies

I was really surprised when my husband said “Want to make some cookies?” this past snowy Saturday.

It was a good day for baking anyway. We were looking for simple cookies, ones that did’t require hours of refrigeration, rolling or cutting. Just cookies.

We looked in the 2009 book, “Sweet Carolina: Favorite Desserts and Candies from the Old North State,” by Foy Allen Edelman. Edelman made a tour of the state for this cookbook, collecting recipes from just folks. One of them was my husband’s grandmother, Nolie Zimmerman, who died in 2004 at 106. Her recipe for “Chest Pie” is in here, along with the story of how she came by it on a party line back in the day.

Most of the recipes are old-fashioned and fairly easy, and we picked the Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookies, because we both love molasses cookies.

I went online and found a recipe using dried cranberries, which we had plenty of, for a white chocolate cranberry cookie. For both, you just mix the dough, then drop it on cookie sheets.

When my parents were living, we often made sugar cookies and molasses cookies that required division, refrigeration, rolling, cutting and decorating. It took most of the day, and we did it all by hand — no stand mixer or food processor. It was a marathon. We stopped making those after we all got older and stiffer and had less than a full day to make cookies.

So, this was a breakthrough, two batches of cookies, made in a couple hours.

Some coworkers had a cookie swap over the weekend, too, and brought in a bevy of flavors, including easy chocolate truffles that can be flavored a number of ways.

The biscotti just sound good, and would make a pretty plate. There’s nothing that hard about making biscotti, but there are three bakes to get them to the crunchy, dunkable stage.

Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. ginger

1/3 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup molasses

2 eggs

2/3 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup hot water

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Combine the flour, baking powder, spices and salt; set aside. Cream the shortening and sugar until creamy and soft. Add the molasses and gradually beat in the eggs. When well blended, add the flour mixture a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Combine the hot water and lemon juice and whisk in the baking soda; work the liquid into the dough until it has a smooth consistency. Drop by teaspoon 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool on racks. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Makes about 70 to 85 cookies.

From Myrtle and Richard Freeman of Montgomery County, in the book “Sweet Carolina” by Foy Allen Edelman.

These cookies are very cake-like, not chewy or crispy. A glaze of confectioners sugar and lemon juice would be a nice addition.

We don’t have measuring teaspoons in thirds, so we had to eyeball those measurements in the 1 tsp. measure. For the cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. would be fine and add more flavor. The cookies do rise nicely.

Kris Kringle Christmas Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup white chocolate morsels

1 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicon mat.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Stir in white chocolate and cranberries.

Drop rounded spoonfuls, about 1 tablespoon of dough, 1 1/2 inches apart onto baking sheets.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until centers are set. Cool on baking sheets for about 1 minute, then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Note: Our cookies were two tablespoons of dough and took more like 11 minutes, as the centers were still not done after 10 minutes.

These cookies are a bit caky and quite sweet, so next time I might substitute semisweet chocolate chips for the white chocolate. I’d also like about 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans in them.

From Kim’s Cravings.

Chocolate Truffles

1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

Flavorings

Melt chocolate chips in a large microwaveable measuring cup or other dish. Set on high for two minutes, stopping each minute to stir (chips will look solid even as they melt). Cut cream cheese into small cubes and stir into the melted chocolate. Microwave for another 30-60 seconds, stopping to stir. Be sure not to overcook. All the pieces do not need to be melted completely, but will liquefy as you stir.

Add your choice of flavorings:

1-2 drops peppermint oil (candy flavoring) or

1 tsp. peppermint flavoring or

1-2 tsp. rum or rum flavoring or

For mocha, mix 1 1/2 tsp. instant coffee granules in 1 tsp. water and add to mix.

Stir in your chosen flavor and chill the mixture well, until chocolate begins to set, about 1 hour.

Scoop out small pieces, about 1 Tbsp. each, and roll into balls.

Roll each ball in powdered sugar or sugar crystals or dip in chocolate coating. Store in the refrigerator or a cool place.

From Lisa Rider of Rockwell.

Christmas Biscotti

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 1/2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

8 Tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperarture (1 stick)

3/4 cup sugar plus 2 Tbsp., divided

3 eggs

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup fresh cranberries

9 servings Baker’s dark chocolate melting wafers (about two-thirds of a 7-ounce container)

1 Tbsp. water (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the cranberries and 2 tablespoons of sugar into food processor, and pulse until finely chopped; set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary.

Using an electric mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well-incorporated. Add the vanilla. Gently stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the chopped cranberries.

If the dough is too crumbly and not holding together, add 1 tablespoon water and mix to incorporate. Use a bit more if needed, but a little goes a long way.

Divide the dough in half, and shape into two logs 12 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch high.

Bake for 35 minutes, then remove from oven, leaving oven on.

After letting it cool for about 5 minutes (they will still be warm), cut each log into 1/2 inch slices on the diagonal.

Place the slices back on the baking sheet (use two baking sheets to fit all the pieces), and bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove baking sheets from oven and turn each piece over. Return to oven and bake 7-8 minutes more, until crisp.

Let cool. Then melt the chocolate according to package directions.

Drizzle the melted chocolate over the biscotti, using a spoon or a sandwich bag with a corner cut open. Allow 30 minutes for chocolate to harden.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

From A Pinch of Healthy.com

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