Love those holiday cookies!

December 18, 2013 10:00:51 AM

Jan Swoope - jswoope@cdispatch.com

 

BY JAN SWOOPE 

 

jswoope@cdispatch.com 

 

 

 

It's here -- the Associated Press holiday "cookie package." We look forward to it every December. This year's recipes for specialty cookies and treats from the AP's Alison Ladman brim with specialties like honeyed apricot tassies flavored with honey and amaretto, cherry lime brownies, sweet-and-salty kitchen sink cookies and apple-orange spice drops.  

 

There are seven baking days left until Christmas. In between making your 148th list and checking it way more than twice, pick out a recipe or two to make for family and friends (and visitors in red suits). Then try a couple more for your New Year's celebration. May your holidays be sweet.  

 

 

 

HONEYED APRICOT TASSIES 

 

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active) 

 

Makes 18 tassies 

 

 

 

These tiny tarts -- named for the small cup or goblet they resemble -- could be filled with any chopped dried fruit, but we loved the idea of beautiful golden apricots spiked with honey and amaretto. Feel free to substitute an equal amount of another dried fruit. Golden raisins, dried figs, dried cherries or even dried cranberries would all be delicious. Both the filling and dough can be prepped ahead of time. 

 

 

 

1 cup dried apricots, chopped 

 

1/2 cup water 

 

1/2 cup honey 

 

2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur 

 

4 ounces cream cheese, softened 

 

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 

 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

 

 

 

  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the apricots, water and honey. Cook, stirring frequently, until thick and jammy, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the amaretto. Allow to cool completely. If desired, the filling can be prepared up to a week in advance, then covered and refrigerated. 

     

  • While the apricots cook, make the pastry. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, butter, flour and salt. Pulse just until the dough comes together. Divide the dough in two pieces and pat each into a round about 1/2-inch thick. Cover each round tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to 2 days in advance. 

     

  • When ready to make the tassies, heat the oven to 400 F. Lightly dust a counter and rolling pin with flour. 

     

  • Working with one round of dough at a time, roll each until 1/8-inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut 9 rounds of dough from each piece of dough. Fit each piece into a mini muffin cup. Depending on the number of cups in your mini muffin pan, you may need to work in batches. 

     

  • Fill each cup with 1 tablespoon of the apricot filling. Cut miniature shapes out of the scraps of dough and top the filling in each cup as garnish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the dough is light golden brown. Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. 

     

    Nutrition information per cookie: 150 calories; 60 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 2 g protein; 75 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    CHERRY LIME BROWNIES 

     

    Start to finish: 40 minutes, plus cooling (10 minutes active) 

     

    Servings: 24 

     

     

     

    We've seen all manner of ways to make brownies a holiday treat, everything from burying peppermint candies in them to topping them with candy canes. But we prefer the delicious simplicity of this recipe, which swirls lime marmalade and cherry jam over a rich brownie base studded with chocolate chunks and dried cherries. If lime doesn't do it for you, feel free to leave out the zest and substitute another variety marmalade or jam. 

     

     

     

    3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted 

     

    2 cups packed brown sugar 

     

    1 teaspoon salt 

     

    Zest of 1 lime 

     

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

     

    3 eggs 

     

    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 

     

    3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted 

     

    1 cup dried cherries 

     

    1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks 

     

    1/3 cup lime marmalade 

     

    1/3 cup cherry jam 

     

     

     

  • Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with baking spray. 

     

  • In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, lime zest and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder, then stir in the cherries and chocolate chunks. 

     

  • Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Dollop lime curd and cherry jam over the top of the brownie batter. Gently drag the back of a spoon through the top of the batter and the marmalade and jam to swirl them into the surface. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center yields just moist crumbs. Allow to cool in the pan. Cut into 24 bars. 

     

    Nutrition information per brownie: 250 calories; 90 calories from fat (36 percent of total calories); 11 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 40 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 29 g sugar; 3 g protein; 100 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    OATMEAL BLUES DROP COOKIES 

     

    Start to finish: 45 minutes 

     

    Makes 3 dozen  

     

     

     

    Everyone loves a basic oatmeal cookie. But these are no ordinary oatmeal cookies. In addition to studding them with chewy, sweet dried blueberries, we've also given them a sugary-and-salty topping. The result is a deeply flavored, addictive combination that elevates an otherwise simple treat. 

     

     

     

    14 tablespoons butter, softened 

     

    1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar 

     

    1 teaspoon baking soda 

     

    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 

     

    1 teaspoon salt, divided 

     

    Zest of 1/2 lemon 

     

    2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

     

    2 eggs 

     

    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

     

    3 cups rolled oats 

     

    1 1/2 cups dried blueberries 

     

    1/2 cup granulated sugar 

     

     

     

  • Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment. 

     

  • In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, brown sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, the lemon zest and the vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Stir in the flour, then the oats, followed by the blueberries. 

     

  • In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the granulated sugar. 

     

  • Working in batches, drop the dough by the tablespoonful into the salt-sugar to dunk their tops. Place the dough, sugar side up, on the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies for spreading. Bake 11 to 13 minutes, or until golden brown at edges and no longer shiny on top. 

     

  • Allow to cool 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. 

     

    Nutrition information per cookie: 150 calories; 50 calories from fat (33 percent of total calories); 5 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 25 mg cholesterol; 22 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 2 g protein; 95 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    STRAWBERRY PISTACHIO ICEBOX 

     

    Start to finish: 40 minutes, plus cooling (10 minutes active) 

     

    Servings: 24 

     

     

     

    Freeze-dried strawberries add a potent blast of flavor to these cookies without watering down the dough. You'll find them in the grocer's natural foods section, or sometimes in the toddler food aisle. To crush them, either pulse them in a food processor or place them in a plastic bag and run a rolling pin over them. 

     

    The dough for these cookies is easily prepped ahead of time. Follow the recipe up through forming the dough into logs. The logs can be refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen up to three months. If frozen, allow them to thaw at room temperature for 20 minutes before slicing and baking. 

     

     

     

    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 

     

    1 cup sugar 

     

    2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

     

    1/2 teaspoon baking powder 

     

    1/4 teaspoon salt 

     

    2 egg yolks 

     

    2 cups all-purpose flour 

     

    1 cup crushed freeze-dried strawberries 

     

    1 cup chopped shelled pistachios 

     

    Sanding (coarse decorating) sugar 

     

     

     

  • In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, baking powder and salt. Add egg yolks and beat to combine. Stir in the flour until a dough just comes together. Stir in the strawberries and pistachios until evenly distributed. 

     

  • Divide the dough in half. Using a sheet of waxed paper to help you work with the dough, shape each half into a log 1 1/2 inches around and 12 inches long. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. 

     

  • When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375 F. 

     

  • Place the sanding sugar in a dinner plate. Unwrap one of the logs and roll it in the sugar to coat the sides. Using a paring knife, slice the log into about 30 rounds. To prevent the log from losing its shape, turn the log a little with each slice. Working in batches, arrange the slices on a baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between them. 

     

  • Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining log. 

     

    Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. 

     

    Nutrition information per cookie: 70 calories; 35 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 4 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 1 g protein; 15 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    NO-BAKE CRANBERRY COCONUT BITES 

     

    For anyone who loves macaroon's, these chewy, cranberry-speckled no-bake cookies should help you satisfy your coconut cravings. 

     

    Feel free to decorate these cookies however you like. We prefer to roll them in yet more shredded coconut (toasted is a nice touch), but you also could roll them in chopped pistachios, peanuts, hazelnuts, even pine nuts would be delicious. Or for a sweeter version, get colored decorating sugar from the baking supply shop and roll them in that. 

     

     

     

    14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk 

     

    4 cups shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened 

     

    1/2 cup water 

     

    1/2 cup packed brown sugar 

     

    1 teaspoon cinnamon 

     

    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 

     

    Pinch salt 

     

    1 cup chopped dried cranberries 

     

    1 cup toasted shredded coconut, finely chopped nuts or colored sugar 

     

     

     

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, combine sweetened condensed milk, 4 cups of shredded coconut, the water, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until it forms a thick paste, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in cranberries, then set aside off the heat and allow to cool completely. 

     

  • Once mixture has cooled, set out a bowl of toasted coconut, finely chopped nuts or colored sugar. Form mixture into 1-inch balls, then roll each ball in coating of your choice. Cookies should be stored in an airtight container between layers of kitchen parchment or waxed paper. 

     

    Nutrition information per cookie: 110 calories; 60 calories from fat (55 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 1 g protein; 15 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    MANGO MARSHMALLOW BARS 

     

    Start to finish: 3 hours (1 hour active) 

     

    Makes 24 bars 

     

     

     

    This bar cookie has all the makings of a classic summer s'mores -- graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow -- but with a decidedly more festive sensibility. 

     

    We started with a deliciously buttery graham cracker crust, then topped it with a cream and chocolate ganache studded with bits of cooked mango. Then we pulled out all the stops and made fresh marshmallow -- it's much easier than you imagine -- also flecked with mango to spread over the top. And to add a holiday kick, we decorated the top with decorating sugar. 

     

    The only special equipment you'll need is a stand mixer and a candy thermometer. The mixer does the bulk of the work of making the marshmallow. 

     

     

     

    1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs 

     

    3 tablespoons packed brown sugar 

     

    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

     

    6 tablespoons butter, melted 

     

    2 cups chopped dried mango, chopped 

     

    1 cup plus 6 tablespoons water, divided 

     

    3/4 cup heavy cream 

     

    11 1/2-ounce bag milk chocolate chips 

     

    1/4-ounce envelope gelatin 

     

    1/2 cup granulated sugar 

     

    1/3 cup corn syrup 

     

    Pinch salt 

     

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

     

    Colored sugar or sprinkles 

     

     

     

  • Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with baking spray. 

     

  • In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and flour. Stir in melted butter until thoroughly combined. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking pan and press to form an even layer. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until toasty and browned. Set aside to cool. 

     

  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high, combine the chopped mango and 1 cup of the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool. 

     

  • Once the crust and mango have cooled, pour off and discard any excess liquid from the mango. Transfer the mango to a bowl, then wipe saucepan clean. 

     

  • Return pan to medium heat. Add heavy cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, then add chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Stir in half of the mango, then pour the mixture over crust and spread in an even layer. Refrigerate until completely cooled. 

     

  • Meanwhile, make the marshmallow layer. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the gelatin with 3 tablespoons of the remaining water. Set aside. 

     

    In a small saucepan over medium-high, combine remaining 3 tablespoons water with the granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 240 F. on a candy thermometer. 

     

  • Pour the mixture into the mixer with the gelatin. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high (be careful not to splash the hot syrup) until cool, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and the remaining half of the mango. Spread the marshmallow mixture evenly over the cooled chocolate layer, then sprinkle with colored sugar or sprinkles. Allow to fully set up, about 2 hours, before cutting into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. 

     

    Nutrition information per bar: 220 calories; 90 calories from fat (41 percent of total calories); 10 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 22 g sugar; 2 g protein; 55 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    APPLE-ORANGE SPICE DROPS 

     

    Start to finish: 30 minutes 

     

    Makes 4 dozen cookies 

     

     

     

    These drop cookies may be fast and easy to make, but they deliver big, bold flavor just right for the holidays. 

     

    We take a basic brown sugar and butter-based drop cookie dough, then add tons of deliciousness with a blend of cloves, allspice, nutmeg and orange zest. We also tinker with the texture, adding the delightful chew of tender dried apples. Top it all off with an orange glaze and you have a cookie that begs for an eggnog accompaniment. 

     

     

     

    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 

     

    3/4 cup packed brown sugar 

     

    1/2 teaspoon almond extract 

     

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

     

    1/2 teaspoon baking powder 

     

    1/2 teaspoon salt 

     

    1 teaspoon ground cloves 

     

    1 teaspoon ground allspice 

     

    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

     

    1 egg 

     

    Zest of 1 orange 

     

    2 tablespoons orange juice 

     

    2 cups all-purpose flour 

     

    2 cups chopped dried apple 

     

    3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional) 

     

     

     

    For the glaze: 

     

    1 tablespoon orange juice 

     

    2/3 cup powdered sugar 

     

     

     

  • Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment. 

     

  • In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together butter, brown sugar, almond extract, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt, cloves, allspice and nutmeg until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Stir in orange zest and orange juice, then the flour. Stir in the apples and the almonds, if using. 

     

  • Working in batches, scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just pale golden brown on the bottoms. Allow to cool 5 minutes on baking sheet before moving to a rack to cool completely. Allow baking sheet to cool slightly between batches. 

     

  • To make the glaze, whisk together the orange juice and powdered sugar. Use a spoon to drizzle glaze over each cookie. Once glaze sets, store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. 

     

    Nutrition information per cookie: 70 calories; 20 calories from fat (29 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 1 g protein; 40 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY COOKIES 

     

    Start to finish: 30 minutes 

     

    Makes 3 dozen cookies 

     

     

     

    Peanut butter cookies -- with that iconic crosshatch pattern pressed into their tops -- are a holiday classic for many Americans. But as good as they are, we decided to play with the tradition a bit. We spiked our peanut butter cookies with a "jelly" of finely chopped golden raisins. We also ditched the flour in favor of upping the peanut flavor. 

     

    The result is a slightly sweeter and delightfully chewy take on this holiday cookie. And of course we kept the crosshatch. 

     

     

     

    1/2 cup granulated sugar 

     

    1 cup golden raisins 

     

    1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar 

     

    15-ounce jar natural peanut butter 

     

    2 eggs 

     

    2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

     

    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

     

    Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment. 

     

     

     

  • In a food processor, combine the granulated sugar and golden raisins, then pulse until chopped to small pieces, but not a puree. 

     

  • In a medium bowl, beat together brown sugar, peanut butter, eggs, vanilla and salt until thoroughly mixed. Mix in the sugar and raisins until evenly distributed. 

     

  • Working in batches, scoop 1 tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Use a fork to make crosshatch design on the top of each cookie, slightly flattening them in the process. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until light golden brown. 

     

  • Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Allow baking sheet to cool between batches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. 

     

    Nutrition information per cookie: 130 calories; 60 calories from fat (46 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 14 g sugar; 3 g protein; 35 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    ICE CREAM CONE CARAMEL DATE BARS 

     

    Start to finish: 45 minutes 

     

    Makes 2 dozen cookies 

     

     

     

    And you thought you were done with ice cream cones for the season. But we found a way not just to bring them back, but to do so deliciously and with just the right festive spirit for the holidays. 

     

    We combine crushed sugar ice cream cones, toasted pecans and jammy cooked dates in a delicious bar topped with melted caramel candies and -- of course -- more pecans and crushed ice cream cones. The dates combine with the caramel to form a luscious sticky, rich filling reminiscent of sticky toffee pudding. 

     

     

     

    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature 

     

    1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar 

     

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

     

    1/2 teaspoon salt 

     

    1/2 teaspoon baking powder 

     

    1 egg 

     

    1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 

     

    1 cup crushed toasted pecans, divided 

     

    1 cup crushed sugar ice cream cones (about 6 cones), divided 

     

    8-ounce package pitted dates, finely chopped 

     

    3/4 cup half-and-half 

     

    8 ounces soft caramel candies 

     

     

     

  • Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with baking spray. 

     

  • In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and baking powder. Beat in the egg. Stir in the flour, then 3/4 cup of the pecans and 3/4 cup of the crushed sugar cones. Press mixture in an even layer into the prepared pan and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. 

     

  • While crust bakes, make the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine dates and half-and-half. Cook until dates soften and begin to break down, about 10 minutes. Add caramels and cook until melted, stirring constantly, about another 10 minutes. 

     

  • When crust is baked and the filling is made, pour filling over crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle reserved toasted pecans and crushed sugar cone over the top, then let set up until firm. Cut into 24 bars. 

     

    Nutrition information per cookie: 230 calories; 80 calories from fat (35 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 27 g sugar; 3 g protein; 95 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    SWEET-AND-SALTY KITCHEN SINK COOKIES 

     

    Start to finish: 30 minutes 

     

    Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies 

     

     

     

    This is the cookie to make when you're looking to clean out the cupboards. We've packed them with all manner of treats -- and oddities -- from rolled oats, peanuts and chocolate chips to chopped prunes, crushed potato chips and even coffee grounds (trust us on that last one). The more unusual the combination, the better the results. 

     

    But don't feel you have to stop there. Got any other crackers, chips, nuts or dried fruit handy? Toss them in and let these cookies truly earn their kitchen sink name. 

     

     

     

     

     

    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 

     

    1 cup packed brown sugar 

     

    1/2 cup granulated sugar 

     

    1 teaspoon baking soda 

     

    1 teaspoon baking powder 

     

    1 teaspoon kosher salt 

     

    1 egg 

     

    1 egg yolk 

     

    2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

     

    2 tablespoons previously brewed coffee grounds 

     

    2 cups all-purpose flour 

     

    3/4 cup rolled oats 

     

    3/4 cup chopped prunes 

     

    1 cup crushed wavy potato chips 

     

    1 cup salted peanuts 

     

    1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate 

     

     

     

  • Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with kitchen parchment. 

     

  • In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, both sugars, baking soda, baking powder and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and coffee grounds. Stir in flour, then stir in the oats, prunes, potato chips, peanuts and chocolate. 

     

  • Working in batches, scoop 1 tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until light golden brown. Allow cookies to cool 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Allow baking sheet to cool between batches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. 

     

    Nutrition information per cookie: 120 calories; 60 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 2 g protein; 75 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    BROWN BUTTER FIG THUMBPRINT COOKIES 

     

    Start to finish: 2 hours (1 hour active) 

     

    Makes 2 dozen cookies 

     

     

     

    For this cookie, we created a hybrid of two of our favorite treats -- fig bars and jam-filled thumbprint cookies. We started with a basic thumbprint cookie dough, but enriched it with the deep flavors of browned butter. And instead of filling it with any old jam, we made a thick, rich fig jam. The result is a delicious and beautiful holiday treat. 

     

    The finishing touch on these cookies is a sprinkle of vanilla sugar, which some grocers sell in the baking aisle. If you can't find it, you can substitute regular granulated sugar or make your own vanilla sugar. To do so, stir together 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste with 1 cup granulated sugar. Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes at 250 F to dry.
___ 

     

     

     

    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter 

     

    1/4 cup powdered milk 

     

    6 ounces dried figs, chopped 

     

    1/3 cup orange juice 

     

    1/3 cup water 

     

    1/2 cup sugar 

     

    1/4 teaspoon salt 

     

    2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

     

    1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or regular granulated sugar) 

     

     

     

  • In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter and powdered milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and nutty in fragrance. Remove from heat and allow to cool and solidify. 

     

  • Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine figs, orange juice and water. Cook, stirring regularly, until figs are broken down and very soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely. 

     

  • When butter mixture is ready, in a medium bowl combine it with the sugar and salt. Use an electric mixer to beat until creamy and well combined. Stir in the flour until a thick dough comes together. 

     

  • Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment. 

     

  • To shape and fill the cookies, pinch off a tablespoon of dough. Roll the dough into a ball, then press your thumb into the center to make an indentation. Fill center with 2 teaspoons of fig mixture, then arrange on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle tops of the cookies with vanilla sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. 

     

  • Transfer the cookies to a rack and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. 

     

    Nutrition information per cookie: 150 calories; 70 calories from fat (47 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 2 g protein; 25 mg sodium. 

     

     

     

    TROPICAL ALMOND MACAROONS 

     

    Start to finish: 40 minutes 

     

    Makes 60 cookies 

     

     

     

    Face it ... the dark days of winter may bring the holidays, but they also bring a longing for warmer, sunnier weather. So we decided to give a tropical makeover to a classic cookie -- the macaroon. The combination of dark rum, dried pineapple and either coconut or maraschino cherries should help get you into a more equatorial mood. 

     

     

     

    2 8-ounce cans almond paste 

     

    3/4 cup sugar 

     

    4 egg whites 

     

    1 tablespoon dark rum 

     

    1 cup finely diced dried pineapple 

     

    Maraschino cherries (patted dry and halved) or flake coconut, to garnish 

     

     

     

  • Heat the oven to 325 F. Line two baking sheets with kitchen parchment. 

     

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, break up almond paste into pieces. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Add egg whites and beat again until smooth. Stir in the rum and pineapple. 

     

  • Drop dough by the teaspoonful onto prepared baking sheets. Garnish each cookie with a well-dried cherry half or a piece of coconut. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and dry to the touch. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. 

     

    Nutrition information per cookie: 50 calories; 20 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 1 g protein; 5 mg sodium.

    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.