CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN — DECEMBER 12

Baking cookies is an integral part of many families’ holiday traditions.  Two of my family’s favorite holiday cookies that I make every year are Ginger Cookies and Double Coconut Macaroons.

Part of my holiday baking tradition also includes trying a new cookie every year.   I’m not sure which recipe it’ll be yet (I’ll update when I decide), but have I got a cookie for YOU to try!  Recently, I won the grand prize in a holiday cookie contest sponsored by House & Home magazine.  The recipe, Golden Pecan Balls, was published in the November issue, and my prize was a beautiful set of Jamie Oliver T-Fal stainless and copper cookware.

Golden Pecan Balls are based on a cookie my Mom used to make called Walnut Crescents.  There’s a lot of variations of the cookie out there, which you may recognize as Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Snowballs, or Butterballs.  My version is different in that it uses European butter, golden syrup, and toasted pecans, and if I don’t say so myself, it is delicious.  If you’re looking for a holiday cookie that’s easy and delectable, I would be honored if you gave my prize-winning Golden Pecan Balls a try.

GOLDEN PECAN BALLS
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Recipe type: Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ cup European-style butter, softened
  • ¼ cup Lyle's golden syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup toasted pecans,* finely chopped
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • *To toast pecans, place them in a single layer in a large dry skillet over medium-heat. Stir continuously for 4 or 5 minutes, until nuts are fragrant and beginning to darken in color, being very careful not to let them burn. Let cool before using.
Instructions
  1. Place butter, syrup, and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat using an electric beater, until smooth. Add flour and salt and stir until thoroughly combined. Fold in pecans. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Roll dough into 1" balls. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, approximately 1-1/2" apart. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until lightly golden.
  3. Place powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. When cookies are cool enough to handle, roll them in powdered sugar. For a pretty presentation, dust lightly with powdered sugar just before serving or packaging (see magazine photo above).

 IMG_3161Ready for the oven

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Baked to golden deliciousness

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All dressed up and ready to go

BLACK CHERRY HALLOWEEN BUTTER COOKIES

Last Sunday we attended the Last Bite dinner put on by Rebecca Masson, benefitting Lucky Dog Rescue, a volunteer foster-based organization providing rescue services, vet care, foster care, and placement to stray and abandoned dogs.   This was the 10th and final dinner, because Rebecca will be focusing her efforts on her Fluff Bake Bar, which will be opening in the very near future.  Chefs from Houston, Austin, Dallas, and Massachusetts collaborated to put on an amazing final dinner.

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Highlights of the 12+ course meal included this mosaic-like terrine of fall vegetables — fermented, roasted, and raw from Nathan Lemley of Parkside in Austin:

A Thanksgiving-worthy course that included smoked turducken, cornbread dressing with ham hock and greens, field pea and radish succotash, and roasted rainbow carrots with sorghum and Texas pecans from Patrick Feges of Feges BBQ and Brandi Key from Clark Cooper Concepts:

Duck Bolognese and apicius-spiced pasta from my favorite chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan of Pass & Provisions:

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Mint-marinated lamb with baba ganoush, spiced yogurt, and pickled onion salad from Jason Gould of Cyclone Anaya’s:

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A cheese course of St. David’s raclette, sakura boshi (?), cashew, and rye from Tim Maslow of Ribelle & Strip T’s in Boston (we’ll be on the lookout for this cheese!):

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Crème fraiche sherbet, concord grape sauce, and ras al hanout from Rebecca Masson:

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And adorable cookies from Michael’s Cookie Jar:

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I made it to the farmers market last weekend for the first time in a while.  Musical entertainment was being provided by the Grim Reaper’s brother:

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I had to ask what these were:

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The vendor told me they were jujubes.  I asked him how do you eat them, and he said, “Like this,” and popped one in his mouth.  Whatever.  A minute or two later, another lady came up and said to him, “How do you eat these?”  He said to her, “Here, try one,” and handed her a jujube.  Guess how many jujubes I bought from him?  If you guessed zero, you would be correct.  Way to blow a sale, farmer.  I will just have to imagine what they taste like, and he will just have to imagine what my money would feel like in his wallet.

I got very excited over a new item at Kroger — red walnuts from Sanguinetti Farms:

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From my interwebs research, it appears that they have been available for at least a few years.  They are naturally red, and are created by grafting  Persian red-skinned walnuts onto larger and creamier English walnuts.  They’re only red on the inside, and the shells look just like English walnuts.  They’re slightly milder in flavor than English walnuts and lack some of the bitterness.   I can’t wait to use these in holiday salads and baking.  How red are they, you ask?  Very red!

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Last year I posted how to make Black Cherries for Halloween.  I made some last week, and used them in these Black Cherry Halloween Butter Cookies.  Something a little different for Halloween, and not overly sweet.  Have a safe and happy Halloween!

BLACK CHERRY HALLOWEEN BUTTER COOKIES
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Recipe type: Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 tablespoon half & half
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Orange food coloring (I used ½ teaspoon Wilton concentrated paste coloring)
  • 24 black maraschino cherries (approximately)
  • Colored sprinkles, if desired
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk, half & half, and vanilla. Add flour and baking powder and gradually add to the butter mixture. Add food coloring, and beat until thoroughly combined.
  3. Roll about a tablespoon of the dough into a ball. Repeat with remaining dough. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make a hole in the top of each cookie. Place a cherry in each hole, cut side down.
  4. Beat egg white lightly with a fork. Using a pastry brush, brush edges of cookies with egg white and sprinkle with colored sprinkles.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly browned on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack.

 

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 Happy Halloween!