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And…Done! (Until Next Year)

December 23, 2013

After an early trip to the store this morning (surprisingly quiet for two days before Christmas), I finished up the cookie-baking with three different batches today – 10 cups of butter, 11 eggs, 27 cups of flour, 11 cups of sugar.  And made meatloaf for dinner, but that’s another story.

Coconut BarsI started off with another new recipe, this one for Coconut Macaroon Bars.  I combined two recipes for this one as well, since my mother likes macaroons but not chocolate and many of the recipes for this type of cookie use a chocolate crust.  I found one recipe that had a plain cookie crust and used the macaroon topping from another recipe and put the two together!  While this worked out in terms of not having a leftover egg yolk (the chocolate tree recipe calls for a yolk but not the white) the finished cookie itself I found to be a little so-so.  The cookie crust crumbled quite a bit when I cut them and the coconut topping seemed to be kind of…blah.  Maybe they’ll improve with age, we’ll see.  If I did these again, I might use a more standard short crust that doesn’t use egg yolks but I’m not sure what the topping needs as far as improvement.  These aren’t as yellow as they look in the picture – that’s just the late-evening light in the kitchen!

CamelsAfter those were done, I made another batch of spritz cookies (once again using the magic Mirro twist cookie press).  This time another family tradition – gingerbread camels.  These can be decorated as I did here, with a silver candy dragee for the eye and a sprinkle of colored sugar, or with a powdered sugar glaze put on after baking.  I usually go the dragee and colored sugar route because it gets them finished quicker!  This is an old recipe of my mother’s and I’m not sure if she noted where she found it originally.

Gingerbread Spritz Camels

1 c butter, softened
½ c molasses
¼ c packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
2 ¾ c all purpose flour
½ t baking powder
½ t ground nutmeg
½ t cinnamon
¼ t salt
¼ t ground cloves
¼ t ground ginger

In mixer bowl, beat together the softened butter, molasses, and brown sugar.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat well (mixture will look curdled).  In another bowl, thoroughly stir together dry ingredients.  Add to creamed mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed.  Let dough rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes.  Put dough through cookie press using the camel die or any desired shape onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Decorate with a silver dragee for the camel’s eye, sprinkle with a little yellow sugar, or decorate with glaze after baking if desired.

Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until set (probably closer to 6 minutes).  Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

Makes about 8 dozen cookies

LebkuchenFinally, I finished up with another family favorite – a honey spice cookie we have always referred to as Lebkuchen.  These are not traditional German Lebkuchen, which are often disk-shaped (sometimes with a communion wafer as the base), but they do carry the flavors of tasty spices (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg), citrus (lemon zest and juice, candied lemon and orange peel), and honey.  They are moist and dense and are finished with a lemon powdered sugar glaze.  These will keep for a long time in an airtight container, but they generally don’t last very long because they taste so good!  Again, this is a recipe my mother used and I don’t know the original source.

Honey Spice Christmas Bars (Lebkuchen)

¾ c packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 c honey
1 T lemon zest
1 t lemon juice
2 ¾ c flour
½ t each baking soda and salt
1 t each ground nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves
1 ½ c golden raisins
¼ lb each candied orange peel and candied lemon peel, ground
1 c finely chopped walnuts
1 c ground almonds (this year we had some almond paste, so we grated that and put it in instead – it was about ¾ c)

Heat oven to 350.  Line a 10×15 inch pan with foil, grease bottom and sides.  Beat sugar and egg until fluffy.  Add honey, lemon zest and juice; beat well.  Combine dry ingredients and gradually add to egg mixture, beating on low speed.  Stir in fruits and nuts.  *Note: This dough gets very heavy.  You may need to mix in the last of the flour, fruit and nuts by hand

Spoon batter evenly into pan.  Press into pan with moistened fingers to make an even layer.  Bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool on rack about 15 minutes.  Turn out of pan onto another rack and peel off foil.  Cool about another 15 minutes.  Brush top and sides with lemon glaze (see below); let set and cut to desired size (usually these get cut 1×1 ¼ inches).

Lemon Glaze: Combine 1 ½ c powdered sugar, 2-2 ½ T lemon juice and 1 t melted margarine or butter.  Glaze should be fairly thick – not runny.  When glazing, cookies should be warm enough that the glaze melts slightly and spreads easily, but not so hot that the glaze melts completely and soaks into the cookie.

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