Winning recipes: Double-chocolate-cherry espresso drops and more

  • Updated: December 10, 2008 - 3:16 PM

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE-CHERRY ESPRESSO DROPS

Makes about 2 dozen.

Note: Our contest winner comes from Faith Ford in Big Lake, Minn.

• 1 tbsp. instant espresso powder

• 1 tbsp. boiling water

• 1 c. flour

• 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1 tsp. baking soda

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 2/3 c. granulated sugar

• 1/4 c. packed dark brown sugar

• 1 egg

• 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1/2 c. chopped dried cherries

• 3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

• White almond bark for decoration, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix instant espresso powder and water and reserve. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and reserve. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes.

Add dark brown sugar and beat an additional 30 seconds. Add egg and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Add vanilla extract and reserved espresso mixture and beat until thoroughly incorporated.

Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Stir in cherries and chocolate chips.

Using a 1-inch scoop, drop cookie dough on prepared baking sheets, spacing dough 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes; because cookie is very dark, it's difficult to tell if they are overbaked. Watch center of cookies; when they lose their gooey quality, they are done.

Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. In a microwave oven, or using a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt almond bark and lightly drizzle over cookies, optional.

ALMOND SPOONS

Makes about 2 dozen.

Note: From Sharon Severson of North Oaks. Vanilla sugar is available in some supermarkets and specialty food stores. It can also be made by splitting 1 vanilla bean, burying it into 1/2-lb. granulated sugar and storing it in a tightly sealed container for 1 week. We found that adding 1 tablespoon light corn syrup to the batter helped hold the cookie together.

• 7 tbsp. butter

• 1 scant c. finely chopped almonds

• 1 c. sugar

• 1 tbsp. flour

• 1/4 tsp. vanilla sugar

• 1 tbsp. heavy whipping cream

• 1 tbsp. half-and-half

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drape plastic wrap over a broomstick-size dowel and place dowel over kitchen sink or raised above countertop.

In a microwave oven or using a double boiler, melt butter and then slightly cool.

In a large bowl, combine melted butter, almonds, sugar, flour, vanilla sugar, cream and half-and-half and mix thoroughly.

Drop teaspoons of dough on prepared baking sheets, baking 4 to 6 cookies at a time and spacing cookies 3 inches apart. Bake 8 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven. Carefully slide parchment paper off baking sheet onto a flat work surface.

Using a thin metal spatula, lift cookies off parchment paper and drape over prepared dowel to create "spoon" shape (it should resemble a crisp taco shell) and cool completely. This is a delicate balance and will take some practice; the cookies need to be cool enough to hold their shape when draped, but not so cool that they have set and hardened.

If need be, carefully return parchment paper to hot baking sheet to warm up cookies that have become too cool.

CARDAMOM COOKIES

Makes about 2 dozen.

Note: From Matt Boisen of Owatonna, Minn.

For cookies:

• 1/2 tsp. baking soda

• 1 tsp. ground cardamom

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 11/2 c. flour

• 1 c. sugar

• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

• 1 egg

For icing:

• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1/2 c. milk

• 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

• 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 4 c. powdered sugar

Directions

To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon and flour and reserve.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat sugar and butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Roll dough into balls and transfer to prepared baking sheets, spacing dough 2 inches apart. Carefully press dough with flat bottom of a drinking glass and bake until lightly browned, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare icing: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add milk, cardamom and cinnamon and beat well. Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar to reach desired consistency. Spread icing on cooled cookies.

RICOTTA CHEESE COOKIES

Makes about 6 dozen.

Note: From Mary Beth Conzett of Plymouth.

For cookie:

• 4 c. flour

• 2 tbsp. baking powder

• 1 tsp. salt

• 2 c. sugar

• 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 1 (15.-oz) container ricotta cheese

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 2 eggs

For icing:

• 11/2 c. powdered sugar

• 3 tbsp. milk

• Red and green decorative sugars, optional

Directions

To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and reserve.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat sugar and butter until creamy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, add ricotta cheese, vanilla extract and eggs and beat until well-combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing just until dough forms.

Drop dough by level tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are very lightly golden, about 15 minutes (cookies will be soft). Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare icing: In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and milk until smooth, adding more milk or powdered sugar as necessary for desired consistency. Using a small spatula or knife, spread icing on cookies (and top with colored sugar, if desired). Allow icing to set for 1 hour before serving.

VIENNESE WAFERS WITH LEMON

Makes about 2 dozen.

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. From Margaret DeHarpporte of Eden Prairie.

• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

• 1/3 c. sugar

• 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

• Freshly grated rind from 1 lemon

• 1 tsp. dried (or freshly chopped) thyme

• 3/4 c. plus 1 tbsp. flour, plus extra for rolling dough

• 1 egg white, slightly beaten

• 3/4 c. sliced almonds, roughly chopped

Directions

In large bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract, lemon zest and thyme and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Reduce speed to low, add flour, and mix until just combined and dough comes together. Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Lightly flour a work surface and a rolling pin and roll dough into a rectangular shape no less than 1/4-inch thick. Trim edges with knife (or pizza cutter) and cut dough into 11/2- to 2-inch squares.

Using a pastry brush, brush top of bars lightly with egg white and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Gently press almonds into dough.

Using a thin-bladed spatula, carefully transfer dough to prepared baking sheets and bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

CRANBERRY-PUMPKIN-SEED BISCOTTI

Makes about 2 dozen.

Note: From Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis.

• 41/2 c. flour

• 1 tsp. baking soda

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 2 tsp. slightly mashed fennel seeds

• 2 c. sugar

• 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

• 5 eggs, beaten

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• Freshly grated rind of 2 oranges

• 2 c. dried cranberries

• 2 c. pumpkin seeds

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and fennel seeds and reserve.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla extract and orange rind until thoroughly blended, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing in to just combined. Stir in cranberries and pumpkin seeds.

Divide dough into 4 parts and form each part into logs that are approximately 10 inches long and 2 inches wide.

Transfer logs to prepared baking sheets and bake until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.

Transfer baked dough to a cutting board and cut logs diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices.

Reduce oven to 325 degrees. Place slices cut-side up on parchment paper-lined baking sheets and bake for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, turn cookies over and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

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