Last-chance baking bonanza

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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This is it. The last week to pick up the stray presents, order your turkey and find a few minutes to bake cookies for the holiday table. I promised a chocolate fest by the end of the year, and I hope you agree I'm delivering. These last three offerings redefine flavour sensation.

Chocolate Cheesecake Pecan Bars

When you read this recipe you will think these are way over-the-top sickly sweet, but they aren't. The cream cheese provides exactly the right contrasting tartness. It's important to sift the icing sugar, so it's just as well to sift all the dry ingredients together. Store these delicious bars in the refrigerator.

Everyday Kitchen -

This is it. The last week to pick up the stray presents, order your turkey and find a few minutes to bake cookies for the holiday table. I promised a chocolate fest by the end of the year, and I hope you agree I'm delivering. These last three offerings redefine flavour sensation.

Chocolate Cheesecake Pecan Bars

When you read this recipe you will think these are way over-the-top sickly sweet, but they aren't. The cream cheese provides exactly the right contrasting tartness. It's important to sift the icing sugar, so it's just as well to sift all the dry ingredients together. Store these delicious bars in the refrigerator.

Base:

1-3/4 cups flour

1-1/2 cups sifted icing sugar

1/2 cup cocoa (extra dark if you can find it)

pinch salt

1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

Top:

8 oz. soft cream cheese

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Sift together flour, icing sugar, cocoa and salt. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter, or in a food processor, until mixture is crumbly - it will be dry. Take out 2 cups of the dry ingredients and set aside. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with foil, leaving enough hanging over the sides to form a sling for lifting later. Grease the foil well and press crumbs evenly in the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes, until centre is set; cool 10 minutes. For the top, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in condensed milk gradually. Stir in egg and vanilla. Pour over slightly cooled crust. Stir pecans into reserved 2 cups chocolate crumbs and sprinkle evenly over cream cheese batter - try not to beat things up too much. Bake 20 minutes, or until bubbly and centre doesn't jiggle when you move the pan. Cool completely before lifting the whole thing out onto a cutting board using the foil overhang. Cut into 36 bars, dipping the knife in hot water and wiping clean with a paper towel between the cuts.

Cherry Chocolate Coconut Drops

You've bought those trays of pretty cookies at the grocery store - you know the ones, looking like Christmas with their little pieces of bright red cherries winking at you. Then you pour up a cup of tea and bite into one. Just as well you ate the wrapping. These little jewels, on the other hand, explode in your mouth, satisfying every wee taste bud individually in a symphony of flavour, their sweetness muted perfectly by the rolled oats. Chilling the dough is important, as is using some butter for flavour and shortening for texture. This recipe should make about 48 cookies. Use all orange or all lemon if you prefer, but I like the complexity of both citrus notes working together. By the way, you can leave out the chocolate chips for an entirely different, and equally delicious, holiday cookie.

1/2 cup soft unsalted butter (no other)

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp. grated orange zest

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. maraschino cherry juice

1/2 tsp. each vanilla and orange extract

2-3/4 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

1-1/2 cups large-cut old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped drained maraschino cherries

Cream butter and shortening until fluffy. Add brown and white sugar, beating until creamy and light. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in orange zest. Whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine lemon juice, cherry juice, and vanilla and orange flavourings. Add dry ingredients alternately with liquid to creamed mixture, starting and ending with dry. Stir in coconut, oats, chocolate chips and cherries. Refrigerate dough 2 hours. Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake at 375 F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to sit on the baking sheet for a minute or two before removing to a cooling rack.

Chocolate Marshmallow Sandwiches

These taste even better than the name implies. Soft and chewy and chocolaty on the outside, smooth and creamy on the inside - what else could you want in a holiday cookie? And best of all, these are easy enough for your kids to make.

Cookies:

2-1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup cocoa (the darker the better)

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

Marshmallow Icing:

6 tbsp. soft unsalted butter

1/2 cup Marshmallow Fluff or other marshmallow cream

2 cups icing sugar

1 to 2 tbsp. cream or milk

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Melt butter together with chocolate chips in the microwave or over hot water, stirring until smooth. Cool 10 minutes, then whisk in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, stirring just until blended. You want these all to be the same size, so for smaller ones use a tablespoon. I like them bigger, so I use a small ice cream scoop. Drop onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they spring back when you touch the tops. Cool completely. For the icing, beat butter and Marshmallow Fluff together until creamy and smooth. Gradually add icing sugar, beating until well combined, then add just enough cream to make a spreadable icing. Spread icing on half the cookies, top with other halves; refrigerate until firm. This recipe makes 12 large cookie sandwiches or 24 small ones.

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 5970, St. John's, NL, A1C 5X7.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: St. John's

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