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Julie's holiday baking ideas

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Our food and nutrition columnist, Julie Van Rosendaal, stops by with some pro baking tips for tomorrow's Upscale Bake Sale at the Suncor Energy Centre.






Click ahead for the recipes!
Mom's Nut Balls

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and/or pecans, toasted
extra icing sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 375°F. Beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until light. Add the flour, salt and nuts and stir until blended - you may need to use your hands.

Roll dough into balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, until pale golden around the edges and on the bottom. While still warm, roll in a shallow dish of icing sugar to coat. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 2 dozen.

Grandma Woodall's Marmalade Cookies

Grandma preferred Robertson's Thick Cut marmalade -- she said it gives them that extra zip! Adjust the spices if you like, using more or less of each to suit your taste. If you choose to use fresh grated ginger (I do) - add it to the butter-sugar mixture.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups oats
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger (or 1 tsp. grated fresh)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup marmalade

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and brown sugar until well combined -- it will have the consistency of wet sand. Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir by hand until almost combined; add the raisins and marmalade, and stir just until blended.

Drop fairly large spoonfuls of dough a good 2" apart (they spread larger and flatter than normal drop cookies do) on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until deep golden all over. Cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch

from Gourmet, December 1999

Shortbread base:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

Topping:
1/3 cup butter
1 Tbsp. Lyle's or Roger's Golden Syrup (British cane sugar syrup)
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9×13″ metal baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger and salt and blend in the butter, working it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan (it will be thin) and bake until golden and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

Just before the shortbread is done, melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the golden syrup, icing sugar, ginger and vanilla. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 seconds.

Remove shortbread from oven and pour topping over, tilting pan and using a spatula to cover it evenly. Cool in the pan, then cut into small rectangles or break into shards.

Makes about 64 pieces.

Mincemeat Crumble Squares

2 cups oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter
1 cup all-fruit mincemeat

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a bowl or the bowl of a food processor, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and pulse or mix until well blended and crumbly; press half into the bottom of an 8"x8" or 9"x9" pan.

Spread the mincemeat over the base, then scatter the remaining crumbs over top, squeezing them a bit as you go to create larger clumps. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Cool completely before cutting. Makes 16 squares.

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