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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rich Jelly Bar Cookies

This cookie recipe dates back to my early childhood.  I fondly remember my mom making them every Christmas for our family.  About fifteen years ago, I asked my mom for the recipe and I have baked them every Christmas since.  We enjoy the festive color of the white cookie with the red raspberry filling.

2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine or butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/4 cups flour
Jam or Jelly for filling (Raspberry Preserves work best)

  1. Cream sugar and margarine, add egg, baking powder, vanilla, and nutmeg – mix well.
  2. While slowly mixing, add the flour until incorporated.
  3. Divide dough into four equal portions.
  4. Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper.
  5. Roll each portion into a long log, arrange two rolls to a cookie sheet, and flatten rolls into strips that fit the length of your cookie sheet.
  6. Create a grove down the center of each strip (I use a table knife handle).  Be careful that you do not make the grove too deep or the cookies will break.
  7. Fill the grove with Jam.
  8. Bake at 250 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and move parchment paper with cookies to metal cooling rack, let completely cool.
  10. Cut cookies about 1 inch wide on the diagonal.
The biggest problem I have had in making this recipe is finding raspberry jam that includes seeds.  Using seedless jelly does not produce the same cookie.  Several years ago, I purchased a jar of jam (jam has seeds, and jelly does not – or so I though), it turns out that most jams now have no seeds, now I purchase raspberry preserves that include the seeds.

It took several years of trial and error to find the best implement to make the groves down the cookie dough strips.  I tried bamboo chopsticks and other implements until I started using the blunt end of the table knife.  When I make the grove, I use the knife held at about a 45 degree angle and press it repeatedly down into the dough about 1 /4 inch deep, moving the knife down the strip about 1/8 of an inch every press.  Once I make the initial grove, I lightly draw the knife along the grove to smooth out the rough edges.

Fill the grove by spooning jam from the jar into the grove with two spoons.  The first spoon to get the jam from the jar and the other spoon to scrape the jam into the grove and to smooth out any lumps in the jam.

In the past, I moved the baked cookies strips from the pan to the cooling rack using a large spatula, which led to cracks, splits, and breaks, but I have found that just sliding the entire parchment paper from the cookies sheet to the cooling rack keeps the cookie strips intact.

These cookies are a fun and easy cookie to make.  The sweetness and flavor of the raspberry the jam complements the nutmeg in the cookie and makes a great combination.  This cookie will continue to be on my “nice” list.

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Friday, December 17, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I enjoy making Peanut Butter Cup cookies for two reasons: they are easy to make and they contain chocolate peanut butter cups.  The first thing I do when preparing to bake this recipe is to sit in front of the TV and unwrap two small packages  of peanut butter cups(one milk chocolate and the other dark chocolate).  This unwrapping process includes watching a Christmas program and nibbling on a few of the peanut butter cups while trying to keep the little extra pieces of chocolate from getting all over the living room.

With my peanut butter cups unwrapped, it’s time to make the cookies.  Because there are only three steps to the directions, the recipe very easy to make.  I start by creaming the butter with the sugar.  Using my adjustable measuring cup, I measured out the ½ cup of peanut butter (Crunchy Jiff).  I really like the adjustable measuring cup when I measure a sticky substance like peanut butter, molasses and corn syrup, because once you fill the measuring area, you push the plunger and then just scrape off the ingredient.  There is no using a spatula (or your finger) and trying to get the all the sticky ingredient out of the measuring cup.

Once I creamed the sugars, I added the egg, vanilla, and milk and mixed, then I added the flour.  The directions call to shape the dough into 40 small balls.  If you try, you will quickly find the dough is very gummy and when you try to form the balls, you will just end up with a mess.  To solve the problem you can either spoon about a teaspoon of dough into the mini muffin pan (that’s what I did this time), or chill the dough for about an hour, and then you can form the dough into balls.

Once the pan of cookies has finished baking, I removed the pan from the oven and quickly pressed a peanut butter cup into the center of one of the cookies.  I usually fill two or three cookies, and then I use a fork and remove the cookies from the muffin pan.  I have found that if you wait too long to remove the cookies, the peanut butter cup gets very soft from the heat of the cookie and will deform when you take it out of the pan.  You could wait for everything to cool before removing the cookies, but that would take about an hour for the peanut butter cups to cool.  If you want to make another batch of cookies right away, then remove the cookies just after you press the peanut butter cup into the center.

The last time I made this recipe, I ended up with about fifty finished cookies.  Once they were completely cool, I placed them in a Ziploc bag and popped them into the freezer.  When our family comes for Christmas, I will remove the cookies from the freezer about thirty minutes before serving and they will be just as fresh as the day I made them.

Find the recipe at:

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Black-Eyed Susan Cookies

We enjoy having Black-Eyed Susan’s as part of our desserts for Christmas.  These cookies are very festive being a white shortbread with a chocolate kiss added on top.  My wife received this recipe in 1994 from a friend at a cookie exchange and we have occasionally made them at Christmas ever since.  We have not made them every year because we have not been happy with the results.

The problem that we encountered with these cookies is that the original directions we received specifies to mix the dough, make balls and place on a cookie sheet, press a chocolate kiss into the center and bake.  The resulting cookies were good, but the tips of the kisses burned and the rest of the chocolate bubbled and was not very appetizing.  We tried adding the kisses near the end of the baking process which helped a little.  My inspiration to fix this recipe came from making Peanut Butter Cup Cookies, where the peanut butter cup is added after the cookies finish baking and are removed from the oven.  This year I found this process also works great when baking Black-Eyed Susan’s.

The following recipe includes the modified directions:

1-cup sugar
1 ½ cups margarine or butter
1 egg (room temperature)
1-Teaspoon baking powder
½-Teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1-Teaspoon vanilla
3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 Package Chocolate Kisses, Stars, or balls
  1. In bowl of stand mixer, add the margarine and sugar and beat on medium speed for several minutes until creamed.
  2. Add the egg, baking powder, almond extract, and vanilla to the margarine mixture and mix until well mixed.
  3. Add the flour slowly while mixing on low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.  Mix until all the flour is incorporated into the dough.
  4. Place bowl with dough in the refrigerator to chill for 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Form dough into one-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes
  7. Remove from oven and press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie.
  8. Move the cookies from the cookie sheet to a cooling rack and let sit until the chocolate is fully cool.
The cookies that I made this year are well formed and the chocolate kisses retained their shape and texture.  I was out of almond extract, so I left it out and the cookies still taste great.  These cookies are very light yet they retain their shape and don’t easily crumble, they also freeze very well.  I place the cooled cookies into a large Ziploc bag, and put it in the freezer.  Let the frozen cookies thaw for a few minutes, and they are ready to serve. 

The recipe made about four dozen cookies, just right for a bag of Hersey’s KISSES. 

Next I may have to try making the recipe with some of the other Hersey’s KISSES varieties like Special Dark or Mint Truffle, and see how they turn out.

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Return from Hiatus

It has been several months since my last food post. During that time, my wife and I spend about four weeks traveling around Germany and a week in the Czech Republic.

At some point, I will share about some of our experiences and some of the food that we tried.

I have been busy cooking and trying new recipes, and especially now that it is the month of December and close to Christmas, I have been busy in the kitchen with cookies. I have already made several batches of my Ginger Cookies. I also made and will write about; Black Eyed Susan’s, Mini Reese Peanut Butter cup cookies and a chocolate-Cherry checkerboard cookie.

Now I just need to get busy and write, so tomorrow I will have a new post!