Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday baking

Every year I bake cookies for presents for our neighbors. This year, as my overly social husband continues to make friends, that means 14 houses. In the year I have a baby and can't bake like a factory. SIGH.

Normally I bake four kinds of cookies. I did actually bake four kinds this year, too, but two of them were disasters. OK, one was a disaster (ironically, the only one I'd made before) and one was just so utterly boring I didn't think it was gift-worthy. So, it's just two kinds this year :-).

On the left are Maida Heatter's Gingerful Biscotti, from her Brand-New Book of Great Cookies ((c) 1995--so, out of print and no longer brand-new), later reprinted in Maida Heatter's Cookies ((c) 1997 and also now out of print). These are delicious, the big winners this year, easy to make and definitely worth making again. That's saying a lot, because I have thousands of cookie recipes in my house (so not exaggerating there), and not many get made more than once, since I'm always looking for something new.

On the right are what ended up being my version of a Sno Ball, a snack I occasionally crave even though I fully acknowledge they are plastic and gross. My version is a bittersweet brownie base (I took the recipe from Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies, but any reasonably dark, sturdy (not cakey) brownie will do), baked a bit thinner than called for in the recipe, topped with the toasted coconut marshmallows from this month's Cooking Light. These are pretty tasty, though I didn't sample them extensively since I barely have enough to cover the 14 houses. Making marshmallows from scratch, something I've wanted to try for several years now, is reasonably easy but has a lot of steps; I don't know that I'll do it again. Maybe as a treat for my son when he's old enough to love hot cocoa.

Speaking of cooking light, these aren't bad: only the brownies have any butter in them. The marshmallows have coconut, and the biscotti have eggs and almonds, but overall these are way down on the fat scale for me. I laid in two pounds of butter for this cookie bake off and barely made a dent in the first pound.

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