Thursday, December 15, 2011

Annual Christmas Cookie Bake Extravaganza 2011

There’s family that you’re born into, then there’s family that you kind of just fall into and adopt as time passes and life leads you down unfamiliar roads. We are lucky to have both. We have a unique, special group of women in our lives that we are blessed to call family. These women are fierce, fun and fabulous. They’re there for you when you need them (and sometimes when you don’t…or at least think you don’t). They laugh at your jokes (even the ones that are not that funny), they cheer your successes and commiserate with you when you fail. Either way, you know you can always count on them. Through the span of our “family-ship”, we have been through marriage, childbirth, divorce, hardship, layoffs, new ventures, and most recently triumph over life-threatening illness.

So this post is about family, both the one you’re given and the one you choose. Spending time with them and having fun. Making memories that will remain in your heart forever.

For us, spending time together always involves food! And our most memorable event is our annual Christmas Cookie Bake Extravaganza. An entire day (and we do mean entire) devoted to baking cookies and other holiday treats. The day is long, intense, exhausting and amazingly... FUN! As soon as the day is over, even though we can barely stand, let alone look at another cookie, we are already looking forward to next year. This year we made 20 different kinds of cookies including fudge and we're so excited to be able to share some of those recipes with you.

While we like to try new recipes, there are always the classics that we must have every year – Chocolate Oat Bars, Jackie’s Tarts, Molasses Cookies and Snowballs (aka Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian there any nationality that hasn’t claimed this one??). The Chocolate Oat Bars are everyone’s favorite. Yvonne has been baking these bars for over 20 years. They are a delicious combination of melted semi-sweet chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and nuts, baked atop a cookie-like crust and topped with a crumb topping. Finished with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, they are absolutely divine. You can't find a better bar recipe than this one. Jackie’s Tarts is a classic jam filled turnover with a buttery, flakey crust, brushed with an egg wash to make them golden brown, then drizzled with a powdered sugar glaze. This recipe came from a friend of Yvonne's who was an Executive Chef at a well known hotel. Over the years, Yvonne has perfected this recipe and definitely made it her own. Rachel's Snowballs scream “it’s Christmas!” (and she'll even sing "Last Christmas" for you). Crisp, buttery, nutty, delicious. How could you possibly go wrong with a cookie showered in powdered sugar? Teresa's Molasses Cookies are a true classic and these cookies definitely deliver in molasses flavor. They are soft, chewy perfection.

This year’s new recipes were Faye's Lemon Cookie Cups, Beckie's Holiday Phyllo FansFreda's Bourbon Balls and Colleen's Peanut Butter Blossoms. With all that chocolate, butter and powdered sugar going on, we had to have something tangy and lemony to balance it out. Imagine a sugar cookie baked in a mini-muffin cup filled with tangy lemon curd. These cookies will remind you of a Lemon Meringue Pie that you can pop in your mouth! The Holiday Filo Fans are perfect for those that prefer a lighter cookie with just a hint of sweetness. So light and flaky with a hint of chocolate, cinnamon and orange and a sprinking of nuts, you'll wonder if these cookies have any calories at all. You could seriously eat 10 of these cookies and feel like you ate nothing at all...seriously (not speaking from experience or anything...). And what's a party without a-a-a-a-a-alcohol!? The Bourbon Balls got rave reviews (was it because everyone was drunk?). Crispy little balls of goodness with a blast of bourbon flavor. Definitely the more adult cookie of the day. And let's not forget about the Peanut Butter Blossoms. Peanut Butter and Chocolate? Yes, please. And Colleen added her own special twist to this classic recipe by using a combination of Kisses and Hugs, just because she's sweet like that.

It's hard to believe that another successful Cookie Bake has come and gone. We're sad it's over but look forward to all the wonder a new year brings. So hip hip hooray for another year of wonderful friends, good food and sing alongs to “ All I want for Christmas is you”.

Happiest of holidays from Faye & Yvonne and all of our special bakers and decorators! We hope you'll get in the kitchen and try some of these delicious cookie recipes with your "family" and have as much fun as we did.

Chocolate Oat Bars
Makes about 20 bars

1 can 14 oz sweetened condesend milk
2 1oz squares unsweetened chocolate
2  1oz squares semi sweet chocolate
2 cups walnuts, chopped
2 cups quick –oats
2 cups all purpose flour
½  teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Heat oven to 350
2. Line 13x9 baking pan with foil
3. In a double broiler(or in a heatproof bowl set over barely simmering water), heat milk and chocolate, stiring often until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in walnuts. Set aside
4.Mix flour,  oats, baking soda, salt in a bowl. Set aside
5. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with electric mixer until fluffy.
6. Add flour mixture and beat just to blend. Mixture will be crumbly.
7. Firmly press 2/3 of the mixture to the bottom of your lined pan.
8. Spread chocolate mixture evenly over top.
9. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cookie mixture over the chocolate.
10. bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned on top
11. cool in pan on a rack. Once cooled , sprinkle powdered sugar on top
12.Lift foil and place bar on a cutting board.  Cut into squares.

 Source: Unknown

Jackies Tarts
8oz cream cheese
2 sticks of unsalted butter (soften)
2 cups of flour
Apricot or Blackberry preserve (not jelly)
One egg with in 2 tablespoons of water, beaten

1.   Preheat oven at 350
2.   Mix cream cheese, butter and flour in with either an electric mixer or Kitchen-aid till all ingredients are well incorporated. (will be a nice smooth dough)
3.   Make 2 dough balls and flatten to a 1 inch thickness. Wrap in plastic wrap and fefrigerate 4-6 hours (best if left overnight)
4.   Roll dough on a very floured surface till your about at a 1/8 thickness.
5.   Using a a large cup (about 4inches wide) cut circles in to the dough.
6.   Fill each dough circle with about 1 teaspoon of preserve.
7.   Using a small amount of water on your finger go around the edges of the dough so it was form a glue to seal the edges.
8.   Crimp the edges with a fork
9.   Use the egg wash to brush on top of the tarts. This will make them brown beautifully.
10. Bake for 30 minutes , will appear golden brown.

Source: Yvonne's friend


1 cup butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp water
2 cups flour
½ cup chopped pecans
1 cup powdered sugar

1)      Pre-heat oven to 325
2)      In a large bowl, beat butter 30 seconds.
3)      Add powdered sugar & cinnamon to butter.
4)      Beat in water and vanilla.
5)      Stir in flour and pecans with wooden spoon.
6)      Roll into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet 1” apart.
7)      Bake for 20 mins of until lightly browned on bottoms.
8)      Cool 5 mins on wire rack.
9)      Place 1 cup remaining powdered sugar in plastic sandwich baggie and toss cookies a few at a time to coat.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Bourbon Balls
Makes about 40 balls

2 1/2 cups vanilla wafers
1 cup pecans
2/3 cups high quality bourbon
1 cup confectioner's sugar, plus additional for coating
3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of light corn syrup

Pulverize wafers and put in a bowl. Grind the pecans and add to the wafers. Blend the remaining ingredients (except coating sugar) 10 seconds and add to mixture. Mix well.

Roll into 1 inch diameter ( I made smaller size) and roll in confectioner's sugar. Store in airtight container at least 24 hours before serving.

I made 48 hours to give time for the bourbon to marinade

Source: Adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes for Everyday

Peanut Butter Blossoms
Makes 48

48 Hersey’s Kisses- unwrapped (I used a combination of kisses and hugs)

Cream together:
½ cup shortening
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar

1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1-teaspoon vanilla

Sift together:
1-¾ cups flour
1-teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Gradually beat into wet mixture.

Chill 30 minutes. Roll into 1-inch balls then roll in sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 12minutes. As soon as they are out of the oven drop a kiss right in the middle.

Source: 4H Club

Molasses cookies
Makes about 2-3 dozen

• 3/4 c butter
• 1 c sugar
• 1 egg
• 1/4 c molasses
• 2 c flour
• 2 tsps baking soda
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp clove
• 1/2 tsp ginger
• 1/2 c white sugar (for rolling cookie dough balls in)

1. Medium bowl mix melted butter, 1 c sugar, and egg until smooth.
2. Stir in molasses. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, clove, and ginger and blend into molasses mixture.
3. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
4. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Roll dough into walnut size ball and then roll the ball into the 1/2 c sugar.
6. Place 2" apart. Bake 8-10 mins.

Lemon Cookie Cups

Makes 45

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lemon curd (recipe below)
powdered sugar for decorating, optional


Preheat oven to 350°

Combine the flours, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the oil, egg and extracts. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and stir until combined.

Drop one tablespoon dough (or roll into balls) and place into each cup of a greased or paper lined mini muffin tin. Bake for 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and using the end of a wooden spoon handle, make an indentation in the center of each cookie. Fill with a teaspoon of lemon curd (recipe below). Return to the oven and bake for an additional 4 minutes, or until cookies are firm and lightly browned on the sides. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Sprinkle the edges to the cookies with powdered sugar if desired.

Source: Barbara Bakes

Lemon Curd

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, about 2 min. Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 min. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.
In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. (The curdled appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts.) Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170°F on a thermometer. Don’t let the mixture boil.

Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.

Source: Fine Cooking
Holiday Phyllo Fans
Makes 65

1 1lb package of frozen phyllo dough
1 c butter melted
1 12oz package of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 1/2 semi-sweet and 1/2 60% Cacao Bittersweet)
2 tsp finely shredded orange peel
2 Tablespoons Crisco shortening
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup finely chopped nuts of your choice (I used walnuts)

Thaw phyllo dough according to package directions. Cut rolled phyllo dough in paper wrapper crosswise into fifths. Rewrap 4 pieces in damp paper towel. Unwrap 1 piece of phyllo and discard paper. Cut strip in half crosswise. Brush one piece of phyllo with melted butter. Top with second sheet, brush with butter. Repeat with third sheet. Fold sheets accordion-style into 3/4" thick folds. Pinch together folds at one end. Spread folds apart at the other end forming a fan shape.

Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 6 at a time in 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack. Cool.

Repeat process with remaining phyllo dough using one portion at a time and keeping the remainder covered with damp towel until ready to use to prevent them from drying out.

Melt chocolate over low heat. Stir in peel, shortening, cinnamon and nutmeg. Dip wide end of fan about 1/4" into the melted chocolate, then dip into nuts. Place on cooling rack to harden.


We were lucky to have some amazing photographers on hand that day to capture the moments (thank you Beckie and Teresa!). Here are some of the fabulous photos they took.

We decorated....

We mixed....

We sliced....

We bonded....

We got hungry......

We got creative.....

                                                We got sleepy....

We got tired and almost gave up....

And in the end, we got a whole lot of cookies......

Here are a few pics from past Cookie Bakes....


  1. Your receipes are amazing and look delicious! I can't wait to try some of them! You have inspired a "retired" baker to dust off her baking pans and make some of these goodies!
    Love your blog!

  2. Thanks for the comment! You just touched my heart. We hope you enjoy the recipes as much as we enjoyed making (and eating) them!

  3. YUM!!! So impressive! I want to make the chocolate oat bars, but have a question about the amount of chocolate :-) It says "two squares", is there a specific brand that you use so I can be sure that the two squares I use match the two squares in the recipe? Or is there a specific measurement? Thanks!!!

  4. Great blog! Can't wait to try some of the recipes. Right now I am helping Colleen's Dad try out the cookies! Marky

  5. Tara, the measurement for the chocolate is 1 oz. squares so you will need 2 ounces of each type of chocolate. The brand used was "Baker's" which comes in boxes of 8 ounces. You can find them in any grocery store in the Baking aisle where the chocolate chips are kept. Let us know how you like them!

  6. Thanks Marky! Hope you enjoyed them.

  7. Yummy!! My favorites were the choc oat bar and the holiday fans!! And the snow balls and the pb blossoms and........all of them!!! Is there a Cookie Anonymous Group out there;)