Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Sweet Cookie New Year

The big question this night is always: What will I do?! Are you lucky enough to have your mind at ease, already obtaining an invite to a party? Are you paying out of your teeth for a fancy hotel room for you and the honey? Are you heading to the swank clubs to pay $500 bottle service? Will you be caught on the N train at Union Square as the clock strikes midnight with your least favorite subway musician singing Marley tunes? I hope everyone finds the place where they want to be. This year, it seems the party never stops at my apartment: We will be hosting a “Sweet” New Year Party.

My high school friends were always together for New Year’s Eve. The two that stand out are: 1) “New Year’s 199-Fine” where we took over O’s house with 80 of our “closest” friends. The night ended with L crying, about how much she loved us. And 2) New Year’s 2000, spent in Jamaica, where the entire week leading up to The Night a local man ran around our hotel enlightening us in his thick Jamaican accent: “Everybody! The Millennium...! Is coming…!” Subsequently, at the bar on the Millennium, I took the waterslide from the second floor, into the ocean, where I was promptly stung by an extremely large jellyfish (which formed into an extensive rash up my arm). In college, I cannot remember very many memorable New Year’s. Many involved bars surrounded by a few friends and many people I did not know very well. Others were at apartments and The Night now blends into any other party (none had clever memorable names like the ones we came up with in high school or this year's). This year, I have also made sure I will not be caught on that N train again. I am keeping as far away as possible from trains as midnight approaches.

This year is “2006: A Sweet New Year”. To differentiate this night from all other nights we will eat cookies and other sweets. To usher in the sweetest of New Year’s, and to ensure our good health and humor in 2006, we will dine on nothing but gooey, delicious, mint, orange or champagne spiked treats. I spent all of yesterday baking up a storm. Some of these recipes (okay, the Champagne Cookies) I thought, "hmm, Champagne Cookies would be the perfect New Year cookie." But it was impossible to find a recipe, until finally luck struck. For others, I was flipping through some of my cookbooks until I found recipes that sounded so good it was hard to resist.

Last night, D and I were guests to a delicious New Orleans treat of rice and beans simmered with a ham hock. I will say this: our bellies were so full of the delicious meal and no one, especially our gracious hosts, could eat another bite. A few New Year cookie samples were brought out and voilĂ , what was once full was now empty and ready to receive. The cookies were happily plowed through. So I tease you with that as the night and recipes approach: A happy, healthy, and sweetest New Year yet.


As stated above, this recipe hit me in a wave of inspiration. What is better than Champagne to usher in the New Year? And what better than Champagne Cookies as the sweetest of New Year treats? Low and behold my idea was so unique I found all of 2 recipes after an exhaustive search that lasted hours. One recipe is sealed away in a top secret $40 a year recipe vault I refused to pay for. The other I found on a blog with the posting dating about 3 years ago. Post-research and screened comments, I believe the top secret recipe is actually just butter cookies with a Pink Champagne frosting. The recipe I used (from the blog) actually has Pink Champagne in the cookies for a subtle Champagne flavor. I made these as drop cookies rolled in sugar for a sparkling effect (rather than the rolled out cookie cutter method called for in the recipe).

The result: The cookies were very festive in spirit. The Champagne flavor was not as intense as I would have liked-- Possibly the $3 Champagne? Next time, I believe I will follow the same recipe, since it is basically a sugar cookie, but add a Champagne frosting.
Makes about 24 cookies. Prep + Cook time= 20 min
1 cup flour
½ cup Pink Champagne
½ cup sugar
¼ cup shortening
1 tsp baking powder

1) Preheat oven to 375F. In a bowl, cream sugar, champagne, and shortening (will appear lumpy). Add baking powder. Blend again. Gradually add the flour.
2) In the bowl, gather dough into a ball. If too sticky, add more flour.
3) In a small bowl, pour about 1/2 cup sugar. Pull apart spoonfuls of dough and roll into a ball. Roll the ball in sugar and place on cookie sheet, about 2-inches apart. When cookie sheet is full, use fingers or bottom of glass to press cookies down.
4) Bake 12-15 minutes until cookies are lightly crisp.
NOTE: I added 1 drop of red food coloring because I did not receive the pink color I desired from the champagne.

4 Tbl Pink Champagne
1-½ cup powdered sugar

1) Once cookies emerge from the oven, spoon a dollop of frosting onto the center. This will add a true champagne flavor.


I found this recipe in my Spago Chocolate cookbook. This is a fabulously seductive cookbook to have, but the occasion to make some of the recipes listed is limited. I do not readily have the necessary hours some recipes require. What happens? It becomes a cookbook that more often sits on the shelf than ruined with buttery and crinkled pages. This recipe sounded quick and delicious so I gave it a try. It also requires no baking which eased the kitchen heat.
The result: A fabulous orange treat. I would make these again but in the future use a little orange rind mixed into the batter for a bit more of a citrus burst.
Makes about 40 candies. Prep time= 30 min. Inactive time= 30 min.
4 Tbl unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces.
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1-½ tsp orange oil or orange extract (I think 2 tsp would have been better)
4 cups confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)
4 ounces bittersweet or milk chocolate

1) In a mixing bowl, with a mixer on medium, combine butter, corn syrup and orange oil until smooth and creamy.
2) Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the sugar, 2 cups at a time. Remove the mixture from the bowl and place on a work surface that has been lightly sprinkled with sifted confectioners' sugar. "Knead" the mixture until it is a smooth ball. If it is sticky, add a little more confectioners' sugar, a little at a time. Don't add too much at one time; you want the mixture to stay creamy, and not dry out. Roll the "dough" into a round, flat "ball" about 1/2-inch thick. Cover with a clean towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Do not refrigerate.
3) Place a sheet of wax paper on a baking tray. Using a 1-inch cookie cutter [I used a star-shapped cookie cutter], cut out as many pieces as possible and arrange on the wax paper. Combine scraps, create another 1/2-inch thick slab and continue to slice out shapes, continue until all the "dough" has been used.
4) In a double boiler [I do not have a double boiler and put an old pie tin over a small sauce pan filled with water. The pie tins handles rested nicely on the saucepan creating a perfect double boiler], melt the chocolate. Once chocolate is ready, placing each candy piece on a fork or or truffle dipper, dip the bottom half of each candy cream into the chocolate. Arrange on wax paper to set. Using a small amount of chocolate on the fork, drizzle remaining chocolate over the candies with a slight "splatter" motion. Do not remove candies until totally set (at least 2 hours depending on heat in the area).


Perfect for the oenophile in us all. These cookies are too easy to make. The subtle wine odor and taste is a perfect combination with a glass of port. These cookies are a traditional Italian treat. They are not too sweet which made them a good pairing with the many sweet cookies I offered on The Night. My one problem when baking them is the recipe called for crisp cookies baked for 25 min. After 35 min my cookies were still not totally golden or crisp (I was thinking of a more biscotti-like cookie).
The Result: these were good, but I think would have been even better in the pre-conceived crunchy version. Was my wine not "dry" enough? Did I put too much in? I cannot say. These were still tasty and offered a light afterthought of vino.
Makes about 30 cookies
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup + 3 Tbl sugar
1 cup dry red wine
½ cup vegetable oil

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Using a fork, blend flour, baking powder and 2 Tbl sugar until mixed. Add wine and oil and stir until blended. Add more flour if too moist.
2) In a bowl, place the 1/3 cup sugar. Roll spoonfulls of dough into a log shape and roll in sugar. Place on a baking sheet 2-inches apart. Gently push log shaped dough down to flaten a little.
3) Bake 25 min until golden and crispy. [As I said, mine were in the oven for 35 minutes and still were not totally crispy, but good.]


A note to cookbook publishers: Always include photos of the food that accompanies the recipe. I think this is so important. I will often dismiss a recipe because there is no photo evidence that the food will actually look good. And good-looking food is important. Grant it, many of my invented creations I would send back in a restaurant if I looked at it, but actually taste amazing.
I found this recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website. The picture looked so good and I live with a coffee addict that I had to try them. Even better, they are quick and easy to make.
The Result: Delicious. There are just enough coffee beans in these cookies to give them a lightly roasted scent. Enough kick to keep one awake through midnight, and enough sugar to pack a punch in the moment.
Makes about 40 cookies. Prep time= 15 min. Bake time= 8 min.
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into slices
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbl coffee granules [I doubled this and used about 2-3 Tbl for a more powerful cookie]
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 egg whites
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
1-½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar

1) Heat oven to 350F. In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter for 30 seconds until soft. Add brown sugar, cocoa, coffee, baking soda, and cinnamon. Mix until blended and creamy. Beat in egg whites and yogurt until well combined. Beat in as much flour as you can using the mixer, then use a spatula to mix the remainder in.
2) Place granulated sugar in a small bowl and drop heaping teaspoons into the bowl. Roll the dough in the sugar. Place on baking sheet 2-inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes until edges are firm.


Fudge is surprisingly easy to make, especially with a digital (or candy) thermometer. It is quick and so delicious and the scent of melting marshmallow allows me to reminisce about the summer and s'mores by the campfire. It also brings me back to my Girl Scout days and a trip we took to Mackinac Island, later known as Fudge Fest. Here, I followed the recipe on the back of a Marshmallow Fluff jar. For a first time fudge maker like myself, it is a great starter recipe. And just think of all the future variations: coffee liquer, cherries, mint, rocky road, vanillas swirl...
Makes 2-1/2 pounds or about 30 1-inch square pieces
2-½ cups sugar
¾ tsp salt
½ stick butter or margarine
1- 5 oz. can evaporated milk (3/4 c.)
1- 7 1/2-oz. jar Marshmallow Fluff
¾ tsp vanilla
1- 12-oz. package semisweet-chocolate pieces
½ cup chopped walnuts

1) Grease a 9-inch square baking pan; set aside [or line it with tin foil]. In large saucepan combine first 5 ingredients. Stir over low heat until blended. Heat to a full-rolling boil being careful not to mistake escaping air bubbles for boiling. Boil slowly, stirring constantly, 5 minutes. [Mixture should reach a softball stage. The softball stage is when temperatures reach 232-234 degrees F. Do not overheat or fudge will be over hard. Do not under-heat or fudge will turn into goop.]
2) Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and chocolate until chocolate is melted. Add nuts. Turn into greased [or tin foil lined] pan and cool [about 4 hours].


Another recipe found on Better Homes and Gardens. The picture of these again, looked so good and with mint being my favorite flavor, how could I pass up a mint cookie? The original recipe calls for peppermint extract. I could only find mint extract, which contains more spearmint flavors than peppermint. The cookies were still good and I think I would use more extract to heighten the taste next round of baking these.
The Result: The mention of these at the above mentioned dinner party sent my host on an eating frenzy. The translation: these cookies are so good you will not be able to stop eating them. The best part is you can mix and match colors to create your favorite color combinations (I made purple-green-plain swirls). I also made half the below recipe. This makes the dough a little more manageable.
Makes about 72 large (2-1/2-inch) cookies or 144 small (1-1/4-inch) cookies. Prep time= 30 minutes; Chill: 1-1/2 hours; Bake: 8 minutes
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp peppermint extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
10 drops red food coloring [or other chosen color]
10 drops green food coloring [or other chosen color]

1) In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add 1 cup sugar and baking powder. Beat until fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and peppermint. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour.
2) Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Stir red {or chosen} food coloring into 1 portion, stir green [or chosen] food coloring into a second portion, and leave third portion plain. Cover each portion with foil or plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator about 1 hour or until easy to handle.
3) Divide each color of dough into 4 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 1/2-inch-diameter rope. Place a red, a green, and a plain rope side by side. Twist together. Repeat with remaining ropes. Chill twisted ropes for 20 minutes. Cut ropes into 1/2-inch-thick slices for larger cookies or 1/4-inch-thick slices for smaller ones. Carefully roll into balls, blending colors as little as possible. Place balls about 2 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Using a glass dipped in sugar, flatten each ball to 1/4-inch thickness.
4) Bake cookies in a 375 degree F oven until edges are set (allow 8 to 10 minutes for larger cookies or 6 to 8 minutes for smaller ones). Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool.


This is another Spago Chocolate recipe I could not wait to try out. Peanut butter cookies are so buttery good I thought they would be a perfect (and more ordinary) cookie addition to the New Year banquet. I also made only half this recipe and it came to a perfect amount.
The Result: Pure melt in your mouth butter. These cookies are a true peanut butter triumph. Unlike most peanut butter cookies, these appear light and fluffy and look lovely crackled open (as seen in picture). They are like little peanut butter bombs just waiting to go off once in the mouth. And they are-- Pure decadence.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies. Prep time= 20 min. Inactive= 2-3 hours. Bake time= 14 minutes.
2-1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small piece
2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter [In my halved recipe I used about 1/3 cup creamy and 1/3 cup chunky peanut butter]
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 pound milk chocolate, coarsely chopped (pieces about the size of chocolate chips)
1-½ cups unsalted peanuts, toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped.

1) Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2) In a large bowl with an electric mixer, on medium speed, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar. Raise the speed to high, and beat until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Lower the speed and add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, again scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Turn the speed to low, gradually pour in the flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Add the chocolate and peanuts, and again, beat until just combined.
3) Scrape the dough out of the bowl, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, 2-3 hours. [I made the dough the night before I was to bake it.]
4) Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Line one or two baking trays with parchment [wax] paper.
5) Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into mounds, about 1 ounce each [or about 1 Tbl]. Roll into balls and place 2-inches apart on the cookie sheets. Bake until slightly firm to the touch, 14-15 min, reversing trays back to front after 7 minutes to ensure even baking. Place the trays on racks to cool and after a few minutes, remove the cookies with a wide metal spatula and place on racks to cool.

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