Dec 15, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Christmas Confections Continued

Like last week, this week's lineup pairs up a somewhat involved, labor-intensive cookie, and a quick microwave candy.

The cookies are among those I make every year, and have for a very long time. The original recipe called for using jelly or jam in the center, but I like the look, texture and flavor of glaceed cherries, although you have to work quick to wedge them in as soon as the cookies are removed from the oven and the dough is still soft. 

The pralines were an experiment many years ago, and came out surprisingly authentic-tasting. But my Cajun friends snub them when they hear how I make them. One of these days I'll sneak them past and they won't know what hit 'em.

Golden Thumbprint Cookies

1/4 cup shortening (do not substitute butter)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
finely ground walnuts (approximately 1/2-3/4 cup)
glaceed cherries

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream together shortening and brown sugar. Add egg yolk and vanilla; mix well. Add flour and salt. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg white. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and dip in egg white, then roll in ground walnuts to coat. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately make indention with your thumb or another similar size object (your thumb is fastest, trust me). Return to oven and bake 8 minutes longer or just until set. Immediately press glaceed cherry or a bit of jam in the indention. Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies. (I usually double the recipe.)

Microwave Pralines

1 cup fresh light brown sugar, packed (make sure there are no lumps)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups pecan halves (the freshest, plumpest ones you can find)

Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Also spray a large tablespoon for dropping candy; set it aside.

In a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup and water.  Microwave on high for 6-8 minutes without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads 240 (or a small amount of candy dropped in a glass of icy cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when you remove it from the water.)

When it reaches this stage, remove from microwave and quickly stir in butter and vanilla.  Add nuts and let stand for 2 minutes.  Stir vigorously for two more minutes until mixture thickens and turns opaque.  Working quickly, drop by spoonfuls on greased foil-lined cookie sheet, using the greased spoon.  If mixture sets up before you have finished, microwave for 30-45 seconds, then continue dropping until done.  Let stand about 1 hour until completely cooled.  Remove from foil and store in airtight container with waxed paper between layers.  Makes 20-25 pralines.

Next week I hope to have some pictures of all the goodies I listed here on their trays, ready to go spread joy to friends and neighbors.

Happy confecting!