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Baking Breakdown

December 21, 2013


Pecan BarsYesterday I made my “necessary” two batches of cookies to keep on track.  In the morning I made Pecan Pie Bars – not one of my favorites, but the Hubs likes them and I like to include some bar cookies because they’re easy!  This year I combined elements of two different recipes, the crust from one and the topping from the other and I think they turned out pretty good – not too much of the pecan pie “goo” that makes them sloppy sometimes.  I cut these small to make 64 little bites.

Pecan Pie Bars
Crust2 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c white sugar
¼ t salt
2/3 c unsalted butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9×13” baking pan with heavy foil and spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 1/3 c sugar, and salt.  Cut in 2/3 c butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle mixture in prepared pan and press firmly.

Bake for 20 minutes.

2/3 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c corn syrup (light or dark, doesn’t really matter)
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 c coarsely chopped pecans

Combine all ingredients until well mixed and pour over baked crust and return to oven for 25-30 minutes or until set.  Cool completely (about 1 hour) before cutting.

Chocolate TreesI also made another one of my standards, a chocolate spritz cookie that I put through the cookie press to make little trees.  There’s a version of the recipe for this on the Land O’Lakes butter website, which is where the recipe came from originally (though in the form of a magazine ad before there was the internet) but it’s slightly different from the one I use in that it has more sugar and cocoa, perhaps to compensate for the fact that it uses a whole egg instead of just a yolk.

Chocolate Butter Cookies
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1 t almond extract
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder

Heat oven to 375.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except flour and cocoa.  Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).  Gradually add flour and cocoa until well blended (2-3 minutes).  Shape as desired, by hand or with a cookie press, and decorate as desired.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until set.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

Makes 5-6 dozen cookies with cookie press.

As I was finishing up this batch, I started having more than the usual problems with my cookie press.  I’ve had one of the now-common squeeze-grip cookie presses for probably 10 or 12 years now and I’ve never really been happy with it.  You never get a good cookie out of just one squeeze as the instructions say and I always have to put extra pressure on the plunger with my left hand as I’m squeezing the grip with my right.  I noticed yesterday that the plastic ring that holds the die onto the bottom of the barrel had a little crack in it, and just as I was finishing up the chocolate trees that ring started to pop off.  When I checked, it was clear that the crack had gotten bigger and the pressure from the dough and plunger inside was forcing the ring off the barrel of the press.

Mirro PressSo, for the rest of my press cookies this year I’m switching over to the old-style cookie press where the plunger is attached to a long screw that gets twisted to push the dough out.  I had one of these in the basement (still with its original box!) that is probably at least 50 years old.  It’s all metal, the dies lock into little teeth in the bottom ring, and the screw and plunger are good heavy steel.  Despite the fact that this is the kind of press my mother used, I haven’t practiced with it myself, so we’ll see how things turn out.  Sometimes, though, the old technology is the best!

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