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The Cookstr 10: Ten Cookies and Bars

December 3, 2010

Gina DePalma's La Befana's Stars

Dessert trends come and go, and we all certainly enjoy ooh-and ahh-ing over the pastry geniuses’ various flights of fancy, whether they be at restaurants, on television, or in fine pastry shops. But when all is said and done, there is nothing quite like a cookie. A homemade cookie, of course, crisp or chewy, plain or crammed full of goodies. And let’s not forget bar cookies, perhaps the unsung heroes of cookies, which are satisfying in a different way (and include the lovely species of brownies), and are often quite portable–a boon in this season of bringing things to and fro.

Sarah Magid's Salty and Sweet Peanut Butter Cookies

You may already be knee-deep in your planning for your annual cookie swap, or you may be staring at the calendar in shock (“December? What the….”). In any case, it’s highly likely that at some time in the next few weeks you will feel the need (or the command) to make cookies for someone, somewhere. Even if you don’t consider yourself a baker, this is the place to start, and this is the season to start in. Submit to the cookie. The cookie is your friend. And if you find yourself with cookies to spare, here’s a list of people who already like you, but might like you a little bit more with cookies.

1. Kate Zuckerman’s Gingersnaps. A perfectly baked gingersnap during the holiday season is like a small round gift (or two…or three…). The combination of the chewy and crispy textures, and the cozy flavors of ginger, cloves, and cinnamon explode with seasonal cheer.

2. Regan Daley’s Pecan Caramel Sandwich Cookies. There is something so dear about a homemade sandwich cookie. These are quite special with a chewy and nicely sticky caramel filling squished between two nutty, buttery cookies.

3. Georgeanne Brennan’s Apricot Pistachio Bars. Bar cookies seem by nature to be homey, but the flavor combination in these is nothing but adventurous. Cardamom is the exotic but accessible spice that gives the flavor that sets these apart, joined by mace, chopped dried apricots, and crunchy pistachios.

4. Elinor Klivans’ Butterscotch and Fudge Brownie Bars. You know how you always have a friend who’s impossible to shop for because she seems to have everything? Well, if you were baking for that friend, this would be the dessert to wow her. One batter is divided into three, and each becomes its own distinct layer in these over-the-top brownies.

5. Sarah Magid’s Salty and Sweet Peanut Butter Cookies. We’ve already gone on the record as full-on advocates of the fabulous salty/sweet wave that’s captivated our collective sweet tooths. These are a perfect example of why: thin peanut-y cookies with just the right amount of chew in the middle, and a lightly flurry of crushed nuts and flaky sea salt on top.

6. Faye Levy’s Orange Mandelbrot. Hanukkah is underway, and rugelach and mandelbrot are two cookies that often make their way onto the dessert table during Jewish holidays. Mandelbrot are almost always made with almonds, and, like the Italian biscotti, they are baked twice, first as a loaf and then in slices. They keep well, and are perfect for dunking in coffee, tea, milk, maybe even hot cocoa….

7. Michael McLaughlin’s Mexican-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies. In Mexico, hot chocolate and other chocolate desserts are often embellished with hints of spiciness. These buttery shortbread circles have a crunchy sugar topping, and ancho chile powder, cinnamon, and fresh black pepper give them an eye-popping dash of vim and vigor.

Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's Honeycomb Bars

8. Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito’s Honeycomb Bars. These are the kind of cookie that you will reach for with equal enthusiasm in the morning, in the afternoon, and after a meal. An orange and honey glaze binds together crunchy almonds and chewy dried cherries, and the whole jumble is spread into a sweet tart dough and baked. These are very attractive and a nice change of pace on the ubiquitous cookie tray.

9. Rosemary Black’s Pumpkin Spice Bars. Pumpkin pie certainly has its place in the November/December cache of classics, but sometimes you want that flavor without all that pie-ness. These bar cookies use many of the same ingredients, including canned pumpkin, but forgo the crust in lieu of a sweet cream cheese icing. Some of us (all of us?) have an extra can of pumpkin filling in the pantry after Thanksgiving, and this is its destiny.

10. Gina DePalma’s La Befana’s Stars. These anisette scented stars would be welcome any time of year that a glazed butter cookie with multi-colored sprinkles is welcome (i.e., any time). Even though these Italian cookies symbolize a post-Christmas tale, they are too pretty wait for.

One Comment leave one →
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