It was a good party season f0r homemade baked goods: this year I discovered some great cookies. This is our cookie tray from last night’s party.
- Starting at the top and moving clockwise: lemon-butter wreaths from
- ; Maida Heatter’s Chocolate Cracks; black walnut bars made with black walnuts from our yard; shortbread with a caramel-pecan top layer; lemon-glazed persimmon bars; jubilee wafers.
We learned a new way to “frost” the chocolate cracks, which by themselves aren’t so Christmasy, but they’re really chewy and fudgey, so you want to invite them to the party. We add peppermint extract and frost them with Shirley Corriher’s technique: roll the dough balls in granulated sugar first, then in powdered sugar. The granulated sugar layer prevents the moisture in the cookie from wetting the powdered sugar, so the cookies stay frosty-looking.
- I only make black walnut bars every couple of years. Black walnuts, they’re a lot of work. You have to gather them in either a basket (that you never want to use again for anything else) or a paper bag. Let them sit in the basement until the hulls soften and turn dark brown (and the bottom of the bag disintegrates). Pour them onto the driveway in the tracks of the car tires. Run over them to remove the hulls. Wear gloves to pick them up and wipe them off, or even rinse them off. Back in the basket to dry. Crack with a heavy rock. Pick meticulously. One hour of picking will give you about 1 cup of nuts. Hardly anyone sells black walnuts — they’re a pain and they don’t keep well — so if you want them, you do them yourself. Their dark, almost fermented flavor is ideal for adding to a toffee cookie bar.
Lemon-glazed persimmon bars: I’ve looked for years for something to do with the persimmons that are abundant most years in the yard. In the past, I sometimes made persimmon pudding, which is a pudding in the English sense of something baked and of a soft, spoonable texture. The bars are easier to eat, to transport and to serve. They are nicely spiced, and dates add some extra chew. The recipe is from Epicurious and I love it so much I wish I could move to a persimmon island and eat them full-time. A photo of persimmon puree.
- Jubilee wafers came from the 1973 Joy of Cooking. I wanted a refrigerator dough that I could make in advance, then shape and decorate later. I’ve made every roll cookie in the Joy, I thought, but somehow I overlooked Jubilee wafers. Jubilee wafers call for a lot of honey, a lot of spice, and half a cup of bourbon. Jubilee, I’ll say. They were also supposed to have nuts and fruit, but I left those out. It’s a chewy, spicy cookie with a little touch of jubilee. A keeper.
Not on the tray were Jennifer’s little miniature gingerbreads, made from a great Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving cookbook recipe. Good molasses flavor, lighter texture than most gingerbreads, with a little orange flavor. And Ashley’s layered stacks of sugar cookie alternating with jam. They looked like accordions, sort of, and I admired all the work that went into them, and how good they were.