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Cookie Kitchen

Cookie Kitchen

Date & Cardamom Spiral Cookies (Kleicha)

May 19, 2023

Kleicha (various spellings) is ubiquitous at religious holidays and special occasions in the Middle East. There are many variations of recipes for the pretty roll-ups of crispy yeasted dough around a smooth date filling. But the cookies always include dates, cardamom, and sometimes nigella (often labeled Black Seed or Kalonji in Middle Eastern grocery stores.)  I love the savory pop of nigella seeds, so included them here. And while some kleicha recipes start with date paste, using pitted dates cooked to jammy consistency yields best flavor.

But which dates to choose?

At the recent TuttoFood exposition in Milan, Italy, I was delighted to find that dates were the featured ingredient in the expos creative cooking competition. Talking to representatives from  Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Palms & Dates I learned that while Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Russian Tea Cakes

December 20, 2021

These little snowballs of melt-in-your-mouth pleasure are full of crunchy toasted walnut. They’re the perfect go-along with that mug of hot chocolate, tea or cider. Put some out for Santa, and he’ll leave a trail of powdered sugar next to the gifts under the tree. Note:  On a recent baking day we made a delightful discovery: You can powder your own sugar. Just clean out your coffee grinder and pulse regular cane sugar for several seconds (about ¼ cup at a time) and voila! powdered sugar. Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Homemade Fresh Fig “Newtons”

November 16, 2021

When Stuart Smalley (Al Franken) saves his family in Harold Ramis’ 1995 comedy of the same name, it’s not without setbacks–the worst of them overcome with the aid of those cakey little comforts: Fig Newtons. Sulking in his bedroom after a blowout with his nasty boss, Stuart’s friends plead with him to emerge, to which he replies: “Come back later, maybe when I’ve run out of Fig Newtons.”

We can certainly relate : )

But Stuart would be shocked to know that Fig Newtons—at least in name—no longer exist: Nabisco dropped the “fig” from the title in 2012. Simply calling the cookies Newtons was thought to be a better fit, since the cakey little treats now came in different flavors. Today, that’s everything from Triple Berry, to Sweet Peach and Apricot, to Apple & Cinnamon, although fig is the enduring favorite.

The famous fig filling goes all the way back to the 1880s when Philadelphia baker Charles M. Roser sold his recipe to Boston-based Kennedy Biscuit company (later acquired the companies that merged to form Nabisco.) Kennedy Biscuit named the cookies Fig Newtons, after the town in Massachusetts, and the bars became wildly successful.

While homemade fig fillings can be made with dried figs, we prefer to use fresh figs, cooked with lemon, for a fruitier, more-flavorful result. While it takes a little practice to get the knack of folding the pastry around the fig filling, the result is worth it. One thing you should know: Fresh baked, the pastry is crisp—stored in an air-tight container, it tenders up the day after you bake these into the “cakey” cloak you expect. Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Gingerbread Cookies

December 23, 2016

My boys love gingerbread–the dark rich flavor of the cookie, and, the poses they can bend and flex the classic-cookie-guys arms and legs before baking. Lately, I’ve been baking gingerbread forests for the gingerbread boys to wander in, too. Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Marshall Field’s Chinese Chews

December 9, 2016

I would never have thought to put dates with chocolate. But wow! So good! The result, as exemplified in this 1947 cookie recipe from the much-missed Marshall Field’s department store kitchens, is way better than any of you date-doubters out there might expect. Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Lutz’s Raspberry Nut Bars

December 7, 2016

One of Chicago’s most famous pastry chefs until his death in 2011, Lutz Olkiewicz  was sweets master at the Drake hotel for 25 years, followed by corporate pastry-chefdom at Sara Lee. Although known for complicated treats, Lutz worked wonders with simple desserts, too. These Raspberry Nut bar cookies are a good example. Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Grandma Bertha’s Apricot Delights

December 7, 2016

Although there’s not much razzle dazzle on the outside, beauty–delicate, buttery, apricot-tender, cinnamon-sugared perfection–lies within.  Susan Levin of Long Grove, IL, tells us that as an only child, she loved going to her Grandma Bertha’s for a Saturday-night sleepover full of baking. Years later, Susan acquired a boyfriend with a, “serious sweet tooth.”  He, too, loved Grandma’s Apricot Delights. So much so, that he made a special plea that Susan learn how to make them. Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Old-fashioned Butter Cookies

December 7, 2016

When I was growing up, our sometime babysitter Shirley loved baking. I can still see her, arms crossed behind her back, sensible shoe tapping, peering through her black-rimmed glasses through the window of our 1970s wall oven.  Shirley shooed us away from the raw dough, convinced we’d die of raw-egg poisoning. But she did let us decorate the cookies–garish overloads of sugar sprinkles, for sure. No matter how many batches of creative cookies I bake, this classic is always included. Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Orange Dips

December 6, 2016

In 1961, these light, fresh-orange-and-sugar-glazed, tea cookies won Jo Ryman Scott the first-ever bake-off at Fairbanks, Alaska’s Tanana Valley State Fair, making her Grand Champion. Scott brought the family recipe–for which she credits Pauline Angerhofer—to Alaska with her from South Dakota in 1953. I visited her there in Fairbanks to learn about the cookies and her other Tanana Valley fair exploits. Continue Reading…