By Mary Jo Spiegel
This time of year sends me straight to the liquor cabinet. It happens when I'm in the middle of baking and discover I'm out of vanilla extract. Bourbon, brandy and other spirits can be fine substitutes and save you from battling holiday crowds at the grocery.
But if you have to go shopping, be sure to ask for paper instead of plastic bags. Why? Because you can cut unprinted, unglued portions from brown paper bags and use them in place of parchment to line your cake pans.
Another holiday suggestion: Have fun and cut loose - loose from your measuring spoons, that is. Spice measurements are merely suggestions. Love cinnamon? Add a bit more. Can't stand cardamom? Get rid of it. But don't get rid of your measuring spoons entirely. Save them for baking soda and baking powder. You can play with flavor, but you can't mess with chemistry.
CAN YOU HELP?
George Bang in Amelia seeks a recipe for his favorite strawberry, cottage cheese and gelatin pie.|
Lisa Bennett in Harrison wants a version of pineapple coconut chess pie.
Another reader is looking for the banana coconut cream pie recipe served at the former Cherrington's in Mount Adams.
As promised last year, here is a recipe for magenbrot , a crisp German spice cookie. Thanks to Christa Snyder in Loveland for this version from My Favorite Cookies from the Old Country (Lubrecht & Cramer; $25). Kneading the dough is great for holiday stress relief.
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup strong coffee
2 tablespoons baking powder
4 3/4 cups flour
2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
Mix butter, sugar and cocoa. Add egg, spices, coffee and baking powder, one at a time, blending well. Add flour slowly until dough begins to get firm. Knead in flour by hand until dough is stiff and smooth. (You will not use all the flour.)
Shape dough into 11/4 -inch logs and flatten slightly. Bake at 390 degrees for 25 minutes or until done. Slice while hot, let slices cool.
Meanwhile, make icing by bringing sugar, cocoa and water to a boil. Continue to simmer until mixture reaches 230 degrees or thread stage. Stir in butter, then dip cool cookies into warm cocoa mixture. Makes 4 to 5 dozen.
Ruth Wagner in Westwood says magenbrot reminds her of her tasty lebkuchen recipe, unusual because it's made with Karo syrup instead of honey. These bar cookies should remain slightly chewy.
1 cup dark Karo syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup finely chopped candied fruit
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
Blend together syrup, sugar, lemon juice and rind. Add egg and mix well. In separate bowl, sift (or whisk) together flour, soda and spices, then stir in fruit and nuts. Stir flour mixture into syrup mixture.
Pat dough to 1/8-inch thickness in 9-by-13 inch greased and floured pan. Dough might not reach corners. Bake at 400 degrees 12 minutes or until brown and firm, but not crisp. Remove and brush with a glaze of confectioners' sugar and water. Cut into 2 to 3 dozen bars.
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