Recently I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to cook, so I vowed to set aside a good portion of time for baking this month. Last week, I browsed my overstuffed book shelf and pulled out an oldie-but-goodie; Mrs. Fields Best Cookie Book Ever!.
I have many a happy childhood memory of nibbling her baked chocolate chip-studded treats for being dragged through the shopping mall by my parents – this being many years before discovering my own love of shopping.
I think it’s safe to say that the book recipes are quite a different variety from her commercially-franchised product, but I’ve enjoyed those that I’ve tried. Besides the standards, she offers some fun variations, such as Eggnog Cookies, Triple-Layered Lemon Bars, and Apple Cream Pennies (bite-sized sandwich cookies with a thin apple butter-flavored cream cheese filling). I went to town, making all three, plus caramel walnut brownies and a peppermint chocolate chunk loaf cafe.
The Apple Cream Pennies turned out to be an unexpected crowd favorite. The silver dollar-sized cookies were buttery, sugary, and tender, and a thin layer of filling provided the perfect touch of mellow creaminess.
I doubled the amount of apple butter in the filling to better balance the apple jam and cream cheese flavors. I recommend making the cookie dough a day before baking to allow the liquid and solid ingredients fully meld, as well to chill the dough to facilitate rolling out cookies. Also, refrigerate leftover baked cookies (if you have any left!) because of the perishable cream cheese filling.
The fluffy, pillowy Eggnog cookies were beautifully redolent of eggnog and nutmeg, and surprised those expecting a simple sugar cookie. To get a thicker mounded cookie with a light crumb, I substituted self-rising flour for all-purpose flour.
I’ve always had a soft spot for lemon bars, and the Triple-Layered Lemon Bars offer decadent sophistication with a shortbread crust and lemony cream cheese layer hiding beneath a bright Meyer lemon curd topping. They went quickly; another crowd favorite!
That wraps up my 2012 holiday baking spree! (phew) Do any of these remind you of your holiday baking traditions?