The feast is nearly upon us and the cold wind seems to be whisking away what’s left of our time to bake.
You are probably thinking about the final cookie you might like to offer visitors or family. If you’re having trouble narrowing it down, may I offer two old favourites from which to choose?
The first recipe is easy, with not many ingredients, and I often make them when I’ve run out of time but still need one more item for a cookie plate.
The second recipe is for those rich chocolate-nut lovers who can’t wait for the holidays for just this type of ooey-gooey bar.
These disappear quickly from cookie plates. They absolutely melt in your mouth — literally. Each tiny bite will disintegrate on the tongue, leaving behind a delightful buttery taste. They are super easy, but you must beat them as long as the recipe says or they just won’t work.
1 cup soft unsalted butter, no other
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
Beat butter until fluffy — allow five minutes for this step. Sift together flour, icing sugar and salt and add to mixing bowl. Starting on the lowest speed so you don’t have a mess, begin to mix everything together. When the batter no longer has dry streaks, scrape down the sides and turn up the mixer to high speed. Beat 10 full minutes, not a second less.
Drop by small spoonfuls or spritz out using a cookie press onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Allow at least one inch between them in all directions. If you like, press a small piece of glazed cherry into the middle of each one, or press lightly with a floured fork to make a criss-cross pattern on the top. I like them whichever way they fall from the spoon.
Bake at 350 F 15 to 17 minutes. Do not let them brown, although a tinge of colour around the outside edges is acceptable. Let them rest on the baking sheet for five minutes then remove to a cooling rack. Store and serve at room temperature.
These satisfy the die-hard cookie fans, the elegant square buffs, and the holiday dessert nuts. I know the ingredient list looks daunting but these aren’t difficult if you stay organized — you absolutely must read through the whole recipe before you start. The extra bit of preparation is well worth it.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 square unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped coarsely
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature, divided
1/4 cup soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups miniature marshmallows, white or coloured
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole or 2 per cent milk — not skim
1 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp. vanilla
For the base, combine butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds; remove and stir until mixture is smooth. If there are still a couple of small chocolate bits unmelted, that’s OK.
Whisk together flour, sugar and baking powder and stir into butter-chocolate mixture. It will be stiff, so while an electric mixer isn’t necessary, it does make this a bit easier. Add vanilla and eggs, whisking or beating until mixture is smooth. Fold in the nuts and spread in a well-greased and floured nine by 13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
For the filling beat 3/4 of the package of cream cheese (six oz.) together with butter until smooth. Add sugar, flour, vanilla and egg and beat until smooth. Spread over base in baking pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over top.
Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until a tester in the middle comes out clean — don’t overbake this so you might want to test it as early as at 25 minutes. Remove from oven and quickly sprinkle on the marshmallows as evenly as you can. Return to oven for two minutes.
Make the topping while the two bottom layers are baking, because you will need to have it ready as soon as the pan comes out of the oven with the marshmallows hot and soft.
Melt together butter, milk, chocolate and remaining two oz. cream cheese in the microwave or in a heavy pot, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in icing sugar and vanilla, beating or whisking until smooth.
As soon as you take the squares out of the oven, pour the topping over the marshmallows and use a knife to swirl it all around for a marbled effect.
Don’t dig the knife in too deeply because it might hit the filling layer. Refrigerate until firm enough to cut into large or small squares.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s,
NL, A1E 4N1.