New Castle News

December 16, 2011

Culinary Conversation: Still baking? Two new cookies to try

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The envelope, return address and letterhead all reflected the spirit of the season.

On paper adorned with Christmas trees, Helen Martin of New Castle penned a lovely note sending along holiday cheer and included some cookie recipes she has tried and loved.

“I found them to be delicious,” Helen wrote of the shortbread cookies and rum nut butter balls.

For those who are still baking, these sound like a pair to add to the cookie tray.

Thanks, Helen.

Meanwhile, as we make our lists for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals, there’s a tendency to forget about Christmas morning breakfast after the gifts are all unwrapped.

Who wants to spend lots of time on that routine?

Ideas need to be easy, convenient and quick.

One uses frozen bread dough. As the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, would say, “How easy is that?”

And to follow in that theme of questioning, who doesn’t love muffins?

Finally, to provide a wonderful aroma throughout your home, a concoction for a holiday scent rounds out this week’s selections.

Shortbread Cookies

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, blend butter and sugar until creamy, then add the cornstarch and mix well until smooth.

Gradually add in the flour until the dough starts to hold its shape and is easy to roll out to 1/4-inch thickness.

Cut into any shapes you desire and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. Cool on a rack, then ice or enjoy plain.

For the icing:

 Mix all the ingredients together until smooth. Place in a double boiler to heat slightly or use a microwave on low power until warm. Divide the icing and tint with food colorings, then ice the cookies.

Rum Nut Butter Balls

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Cut in the butter, add the rum and chopped nuts and mix well.

Shape into one-inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm but not browned.

While warm, roll balls in confectioner’s sugar and set aside to cool. Reroll the balls again in the powdered sugar. Place on a dish.

Strata

Christmas Casserole

After sausage is browned, stir in green pepper and onion and cook another 5 minutes.

Place half the bread in bottom of buttered 9-by-13-inch pan. Spread with meat mixture. Top with remaining bread cubes.

Beat eggs and stir in milk, salt and mustard. Pour over bread. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until puffed and golden. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Christmas Day Muffins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare muffin pans.

Put the first four ingredients into a pan and heat gently until butter has melted.

While mixture is heating, sift the flour, spice, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl; stir in the bran and sugar.

Lightly beat the eggs. Add the baking soda to the melted ingredients; then pour this and the eggs into the flour mixture. Quickly and lightly stir until just mixed.

Spoon mixture into paper Christmas muffin cups or pans. Place a cherry on top of each.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until muffin springs back when lightly touched.

Dust with icing sugar if desired and serve warm.

Makes 12.

Christmas Bread

Thaw bread dough according to package directions.

On a lightly floured board, pull dough out until it is 12 inches long. Knead the fruit, mincemeat and the nuts into the dough.

With a sharp knife, cut dough into three ropes, 12 inches long. Press the three ropes together on one end and braid on a greased cookie sheet.

Let rise in a warm (90-degree) place until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool.

Combine the sugar, milk and cardamon. Spread this glaze over bread

Christmas Scent

Combine all ingredients in a kettle or saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for as long as desired.

Check water level frequently and add more as needed.

Mixture may be stored in refrigerator and reused.

(Note: Strata, bread, muffins and Christmas scent have not been tested.)