Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Christmas Cookie Workshop

One year I bought myself The Chicken Soup for the Soul Cookbook. I remember loving it so much and trying out so many of the recipes. And how much people loved these recipes. You see, they didn't know that the recipes were special. That being A Chicken Soup for the Soul book, each recipe had to come with a story attached.

I decided to feature some of the stories and recipes here. After all, what's Christmas without a few Christmas recipes. For those of you who know me, and who have tasted my chocolate raspberry streusel bars...well, the mystery is solved. Here is where I got the recipe.

Merry Christmas and enjoy!

In my house, cookies are synonymous with Christmas. Some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories include baking special cookies during the holiday season. As my mother turned the kitchen into a Christmas workshop (the aromas wafting through the kitchen were wonderful) my sister, two brothers and I were welcomed as assistant bakers. Like most children, one of the things we liked best was eating the raw dough -- and the slightly cooled cookies right out of the oven.

Each of us had our favourite cookie that had to be included in the Christmas baking marathon. I loved Chocolate Pecan Chews while my sister was fond of Bullets (similar to cookies known as Mexican wedding cakes). My brother preferred Toffee Squares and Mrs Arnold's Spritz Cookies. I always made four or five recipes of the Pecan Chews so there were a few extras for me. They were so good I could eat an entire recipe. To this day, I still love them.

Once cookie baking was finished, Mother filled a collection of cookie tins. One two-foot high, round, red tin stood out. O have never seen another like it. No matter how well she tried to hide the tins, my brother and I would find them, sneak a cookie or two from time to time over the next few weeks prior to Christmas, and think mother would never notice. Well, Mother did notice when she was making up her cookie platters for holiday parties and gifts and found the tins only half full. No matter how much we were reprimanded, the scenario continued yearly.

Years of cookie baking, cookie gift-giving and cookie-recipe collecting since childhood led to my writing a cookbook, Cookies, and my being known among my circle of friends as the Cookie Lady. My two children also started making cookies at an early age, and now they are chocolate chip cookie and brownies-from-scratch experts. Here are my childhood favourites.

(By Natalie Hartanov Haughton)

Chocolate Pecan Chews (Makes 48 (1 1/4 inch) cookies

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (about 400 grams)
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (60 grams)
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Line baking sheets with foil; grease foil generously. In top of a double boiler, combine condensed milk and chocolate. Place over boiling water on medium-high to high heat. Cook until mixture thickens, about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in salt, vanilla and pecans. Drop by teaspoonfuls, about 2 inches apart, onto foil-lined baking sheets.

2. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until edges begin to brown watching carefully to avoid burning. Cookies will be very soft but will become firm as they cool. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheets; then carefully remove to racks to cool completely.

Chocolate Raspberry Streusel Bars (Makes 48 bar cookies)

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) soft butter (cut in pieces)
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 1/4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

3/4 cups flour
5 1/3 tablespoons (2/3 stick) soft butter, cut in pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I usually substitute this with almonds)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with foil. To make the shortbread base, combine the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl or a food processor fitted with the steel blade; mix well. Add butter, whipping cream and vanilla, and mix or process until the mixture holds together.

2. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until very light golden.

3. Place raspberry jam by spoonfuls on top of the warm crust; spread evenly with a table knife. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the jam.

4. To make the crumb topping, combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl or food processor. Mix or process in quick on/off motions until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping evenly over all.

5. Return pan to oven and bake 18 to 20 minutes longer until crumb topping is golden. Cool completely, then cut into bars.

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