Nothing pleases cookie lovers of all ages more than fresh-from-the-oven homemade cookies and brownies. Holidays often bring to mind American standbys from the past such as gingersnaps and shortnin’ bread. But it’s the old-world international recipes that were brought here by our European ancestors that have become today’s American favorites.
Rugelach and biscotti have been elevated to new levels of respect as they appear on many fine restaurant menus as well as at trendy coffee cafes. Creative bakers are incorporating personal touches by adding dried cranberries, pine nuts and espresso to update plainer varieties.
What I love best about serving cookies and bars is that you can have just one or a few. No one needs to feel guilty about leaving half a big slice of cake on their plate. Most recipes can be made in advance and frozen.
You can start well ahead with no last-minute fuss. So why not plan a Chanukah tea for young and old alike? This is a wonderful opportunity to try some new herbal teas, coffees, instant cappuccinos and flavored creamers. A homemade pot of hot chocolate will impress children and probably most adults.
You also could make it a cookie exchange of sorts by inviting guests to bring one recipe of their own. Supply some inexpensive, pretty containers for each to fill and take home with some of their favorites.
Here are some tips for successful cookie baking. Read the entire recipe before beginning to make sure you have all the ingredients and proper baking utensils. Always remember to use large size eggs, preferably at room temperature.
Nuts should be as fresh as possible. Even a small amount of stale nuts can ruin a recipe. I keep mine in the freezer to ensure freshness. If you take the time to lightly toast the nuts before using, their oils will be released and the flavor will be much more intense.
Preheat oven before baking and prepare baking sheets according to directions. A cookie sheet without sides is best for most cookies as it will allow more even heat distribution. If possible, place only one baking sheet at a time in the oven. If recipe is large, and you use two, rotate them halfway through the baking time for more even results. Have fun making, eating and serving these recipes!