Makes about 4 dozen.
Note: From Allison Koster of Northfield, Minn. "Cafe Deluxe was an institution in the tiny college town of Decorah, Iowa," writes Koster. "Next to the cash register stood a wood-and-glass case containing an array of tempting cookies. One of my absolute favorite treats were these Crocodile Cookies, a spicy twist on a chocolate chip cookie. A friend of mine who worked there as a baker snuck me the recipe after much begging. Whenever I share these cookies with friends, I feel like I'm keeping the memory of the much-beloved Cafe Deluxe alive for the next generation."
• 2 c. flour
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 11/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 11/2 tsp. ground ginger
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
• 11/3 c. packed brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 c. chocolate chips
• 1 c. chopped walnuts
• Powdered sugar for rolling cookies
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger and reserve. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and brown sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly combined.
Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
Roll tablespoons of dough into balls, roll balls in powdered sugar to coat and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until golden brown and cracked on top, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool competely.
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED ALMOND-PISTACHIO MACAROONS
Note: From Cathy Spengler of Minneapolis. "I'm not really a holiday baker," writes Spengler. "I never started my own tradition until December 2004. That year I wanted to find a small way to thank my favorite client for the wonderful projects they had given me to work on. I settled on the idea of cookies, and proceeded to search for a recipe that seemed special and a bit different, but not specifically holiday-ish. This one was my choice, so I baked them up and dropped them off. A couple of hours later I received a wonderful e-mail entitled, 'Holy cow!' That was the beginning of a tradition that I hope to continue for years to come."
• 41/2 c. powdered sugar
• 2 c. whole almonds
• 1/2 c. flour
• 1 c. unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
• 3/4 c. egg whites (about 6 eggs)
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 6 oz. semisweet chocolate
• 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine powdered sugar and almonds and grind until nuts are ground to powder, about 4 minutes (occasionally stop food processor and scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula). Add flour and grind 1 additional minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in pistachios.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg whites and salt until whites are stiff but not dry. Fold nut mixture into whites in 4 additions; batter will be thick.
Spoon batter by generous tablespoons about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are dry and cracked on top, about 10 minutes (don't let cookies get too brown while waiting for them to look dry; they'll be nice and chewy if removed from oven when they're golden brown, whether or not they look dry). Remove from oven and slide parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool cookies completely.
Line baking sheets with waxed paper. In a microwave oven or using a double boiler, melt chocolate. Dip cookies halfway into chocolate, shaking off excess. Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets and refrigerate 30 minutes. Cookies can be served and stored at room temperature.
MAPLE FRANGO COOKIES
Makes about 4 dozen.
Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. From Carole Lampi of New Brighton. "Every year my grandparents would treat my family to a seven-course 'Sunday dinner' at the Lowell Inn [in Stillwater]," she writes. "The best part was dessert: Maple Frango, a slab of creamy, rich maple-flavored frozen dessert. It had crunchy layers, yet was oh-so creamy. It's been over 35 years since those wonderful holiday dinners. I wanted to remember that rich maple flavor and creamy texture. This cookie has done the trick. I close my eyes as I enjoy this cookie and feel as if I am at the Lowell Inn once again."
For cookie dough:
• 3 c. flour, plus extra for rolling dough
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
• 1 (12-oz.) bag butterscotch chips
• 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 1/2 c. tightly packed dark brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1/4 c. pure maple syrup
• 1 tbsp. maple extract
• 1 8-oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
• 1 egg
• Pure maple syrup for garnish, optional
• Decorative colored sprinkles, optional
• 1 c. powdered sugar
• 2 or more tbsp. milk
To prepare cookie dough: In a medium bowl, sift flour, salt and cardamom together and reserve. Place butterscotch chips in a tightly sealed plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add crushed butterscotch chips and beat until well-blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add maple syrup and maple extract and beat until well blended.
Divide dough in half, form dough into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
To prepare filling: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract and egg and beat until well-combined. If mixture is runny, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
To prepare cookie: When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface and using a lightly floured rolling pin (or placing dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper), roll dough into rectangles, with dough about 1/4-inch thick.
Using a spatula, spread cream cheese filling over dough, and carefully roll dough to create a pinwheel cookie. Brush rolled cookie with maple syrup and sprinkle with decorative colored sprinkles, optional.
Using dental floss, slice 1/4-inch thick cookies. Place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets and bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool competely.
To prepare icing: In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and milk, adding more milk if necessary to achieve desired consistency. Drizzle icing over cooled cookies.