By Marsha Fottler –
We’re heading into high cookie season as home cooks all over the nation start pulling out family favorites and or begin to search for fresh inspiration for cookies to give as holiday gifts. Nothing quite satisfies eaters of all ages like a fresh cookie.
Cookielicious by St. Petersburg Times newspaper editor Janet M Keeler is the newest addition to a long list of new cookie books that are surfacing this fall. She’s collected 150 recipes, most from readers, and compiled them into a soft cover book that leaves space on each recipe page for personal notes. Additionally, there are lots of useful baking and presentation tips that novice bakers will appreciate. Keeler also lets you know if the cookies freeze well because holiday bakers like to start early.
The color photographs of the finished cookies are in a separate section from the recipes, which is awkward and the book’s binding makes is a bit user-unfriendly. I had trouble getting the book to stay open on the kitchen counter without weighing it down. But, the production values in Cookielicious are less important than the recipes. This isn’t an especially pretty book, but it’s a useful one.
The organization of recipes is practical. Keeler has sections on what she calls anytime cookies, sharing cookies, chocolate, kids and holiday cookies. All the recipes are fairly simple and the bakers in this book are not above using packaged brownie or cake mixes or boxed cereals as starting ingredients for cookies to make with children. Some recipes have as few as three ingredients. This recipe has more, but, oh my, what a delicious cookie it is.
Brandied Apricot Chews by Marjorie Schneider
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 ½ cups quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup chopped nuts
1 ¾ cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons melted utter
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons brandy extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg. Combine dry ingredients and blend into butter-sugar-egg mixture. Stir in apricots and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonsful on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until edges are light brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets and then remove to wire rack. Cool completely. to make the icing, combine ingredients until well blended and drizzle over cookies. Makes about 2 ½ dozen. Don’t freeze.
Tips from expert cookie makers featured in the book.
* Collect inexpensive decorative plates and use them when giving a gift of cookies. The plate is part of the present.
* Before baking an entire batch of cookies, bake one or two to determine how much they spread.
* Use parchment paper to line cookie sheets to facilitate baking and prevent sticking. Cleanup is a snap.
* When a recipe doesn’t specify light or dark brown sugar, go with light. The additional molasses in dark brown might make your cookies darker than you’d like.
* Most cookies call for all-purpose flour. Occasionally, one calls for cake flour, which has less gluten and produces a more tender cookie.
* Use heavy-gauge aluminum cookie sheets with a reflective surface. They should be rimless. Dark sheets make cookies burn more easily and rimmed baking sheets deflect heat and promote uneven cooking.
* Cool cookies on wire racks rather than on baking sheets or plates. Cookies cooled on solid surfaces get mushy on the bottom.
(Cookielicious by Janet K. Keeler. Times Publishing Company and Seaside Publishing. Soft cover. $19.95)