The Washington Post

Dec 08, 2010

It's time for the Food section's annual cookie issue. We have more than two dozen sweet and savory options to choose from, so bring your questions, your favorite recipes and your appetite.

Holiday Guide

Photo Gallery: Holiday Cookies Recipes

Welcome to the chat! We've got TONS of questions already -- the power of cookies, no doubt -- so I'll keep my windup short. We have the fabulous Cathy Barrow (aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow) in the room to help us handle it all. She supplied several winners to the cookie collection: Apricot Confections; White Chocolate, Cherry and Pistachio Cookies; and Spicy Cheddar Thumbrints. So fire away!

Of course we'll have giveaway books -- today they'll remain a surprise, but trust me, you'll love 'em.

Oh, and how could I forget? Our new staff writer, Tim Carman, is on board for his first chat! This is his first week at WaPoFood, and he's working hard in between annoying learn-this-confusing-system training classes, so go easy on him. On second thought, nah, put him through his paces!

I'm shipping holiday cookies from here to Hawaii via priority mail. Given that it will take about 3 days for the cookies to get there, what are my best bets? Do you have any shipping advice?

I ship a lot of cookies every year. I find that tins are better than anything else for keeping the cookies fresh. Also, putting the cookies into muffin cups or candy cups keeps them from sliding around bashing into one another, and keeps the flavors separate. If you have corrugated cardboard, that can be used between the cups to cushion the cookies even more. From personal experience, the apricot confections and spicy cheddar thumbprints both mail well.

Hello, A friend of mine sent me a recipe for to-die-for chocolate chip cookies and while I want to try them, it calls for cake and bread flour in lieu of all-purpose. Could I substitute all-purpose or self-rising with the same effects? If so , which one, and if not- where do I find cake and bread flour??

Both flours will be at any large grocery store. The bread flour brings heft/gluten to the party, while the cake flour has a fine grain. I wouldn't think self-rising would have the same effect of either of those. If you buy the bread flour, store it in the freezer.

Thank you for my favorite edition of the food section each year: holiday cookies! I really enjoy baking cookies at the holidays, and I always have a dream of packaging them up to give to neighbors and friends. Well, this year I am going to do it! Any idea where I can find those nice stand-up plastic bags that you can tie with ribbon for cookie giving? I have seen them online, but the are mostly sold in bulk (50 or more). !

The Container Store and Michaels both sell packaging materials, including the stand up cellophane bags.

Pretty sure you can find them at the Container Store. Sur La Table has clear ones that don't stand up. A party supply store like Party City will have them too.

I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful gingerbread recipe you supplied me last week! They were a hit with our friends, and, even better, my husband (who grew up eating gingerbread men from his hometown's Mennonite bakery) won't stop raving about how good they are. Today I'm going to attempt making a gingerbread house with my three year old out of the leftover dough. I'm so glad to have this recipe in my repertoire now. Thanks again!

Glad to be of service!

Chiming in on a poster's question last week, looking for fresh kimchi (that doesn't really make sense, does it? I guess un-canned kimchi!) available near a metro: The lovely Korean grocer at Eastern Market (the vegetable stand near the bakery at the South end of the hall) makes homemade Kimchi - it's great! She usually has several different varieties. She also sells it at her downtown deli, but I'm not sure where that is. The vendor, Joanne, will be happy to tell you! Sadly, I moved to the UK a few months ago - can you tell I'm craving some flavorful, spicy food?!

Excellent. Thanks!

Good day, Free Rangers. I have a question and a recipe for you. My question: I have a problem with brown sugar drying to such hard clumps that it jams up my electric mixer, and I'm afraid the clumps will damage it. Any suggestions to keep brown sugar moist and to remoisten the dry stuff? And now a delicious Cranberry Chutney recipe: 1 c. water, 1 c. sugar, 2 c. cranberries, ½ c. white raisins, ¼ c. slivered almonds, ¼ t. grated ginger, ¼ t garlic salt, 2 T. cider vinegar, 1 T. brown sugar. Mix water and sugar and cook until sugar dissolves. Add remaining ingredients and mix well, then cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Even people who profess not to like tart cranberries like this.

What a delicious sounding chutney! I'm always looking for new cranberry sauces. As to your brown sugar dilemna - just put it in a ceramic or glass bowl and zap it in the microwave (low setting) for 10-15 seconds. Keep checking so it doesn't melt. Don't, please, microwave it in the plastic bag.

Hi! I'm looking for a great recipe for something with dark chocolate and sea salt, inspired from Trader Joe's super delicious dark chocolate sea salt brownie bites. I was also wondering how much salt I could add to a normal cookie or bark that would make it obvious that it's there but not overwhelming. Thank you!

I second that suggestion. I've made those many times, and people love em. I serve em with chocolate sorbet for a double-chocolate hit, or with chocolate budino (pudding).

I'm thinking about getting my friend a kitchen scale for xmas as she makes a lot of bread. Any recommendations? [and is this a lame gift idea?]

Kitchen Scales make any cook better. Especially a baker. I'm especially partial to the Oxo scale - the scale part pulls off the base, allowing you to see the information even if you have a very large bowl on the scale. Also, it stays "on" longer. Some scales have an auto shut off that never fails to shut the scale off halfway through measuring.

I know this is not a cookie question. But I do make 5-6 different types of cookies every year and look forward to trying some of this year's! Anyway, my mother-in-law is coming to Christmas dinner and has specifically requested either lamb or beef wellington. Yikes. I've never done this, but I want to try to accommodate as much as possible. Do you all know where I could find premade wellingtons where all I have to do is put in the oven to cook them?

Cuisine Solutions, the sous vide company in Alexandria, sells a terrific frozen beef wellington. I just got off the phone with Gerard Bertholon, a vice president at Cuisine Solutions, who says a four pack of beef wellingtons retails for about $40 and is available at Giant. You might also find it at Costco. If you haven't tried Cuisine Solution products, you should. They're very good. A number of chefs in the area, including Michel Richard, use the company for some of their dishes.

I'm sorry I know this is supposed to be about cookies, but I have to ask a very stupid question. I had a meal the other evening that had Edamame in it and loved them. I tried to find them at Wegman's, but only saw Soy Beans. Is that what I was eating only prepared differently? Can you buy just Edamame?

Indeed, edamame are soy beans. Cooked from fresh (often in the pod) rather than dried or roasted, etc. You can find them shelled and frozen in lots of stores. I've seen those at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

Yesterday I was making oatmeal raisin cookies and realized half way through that the flour quantity was missing. Is there a rule of thumb for how much flour would generally be in a recipe? In this case, I went with 1&1/2 cups of flour and it seemed like it worked well. It was frustrating though trying to make it just right. Thx!

Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio, has a 1-2-3 for cookies - 2 oz. sugar, 4 oz butter, and 6 oz. flour. I've used this several times to make up cookie recipes and it works every time.

First off, welcome to Tim Carman from CP, I'm sure he'll be a great addition to your staff. About the brown sugar, you can keep it in the refrigerator when not in use. It will stay moist and malleable whenever you need it.


Not only can you use edamame in recipes, but in the shell, they make great snacks--just sprinkle some kosher salt and a squeeze of lemon juice!

Yep, of course -- a standard in sushi bars.

I'm sure there's an easy answer here, but I just don't seem to have it. Are there any tried and true tricks to keeping brown sugar from solidifying into a rock solid brick once the box is open? I'd prefer not to buy any new gadgets if possible. Thanks!

Put a piece of bread in the package, or a few slices of apple, or even a few marshmallows!

Can I substitute unsweetened coconut and condensed milk? I find these ingredients sweet as it is. Thanks.

Absolutely. I've made these cookies with unsweetened coconut several times. You're right, the apricot and coconut are themselves sweet and the sweetened condensed milk just holds them together enough to roll into balls. 

Where can you find evaporated cane sugar mentioned in this recipe?

Health food/organic stores, and Whole Foods Markets.

I have re-read this recipe several times. You don't say in this recipe when/where to add the melted chocolate.

Oh heavens. Editor  Joe, this person needs a chat prize. I'll supply. The chocolate goes in after the cream and the recipe's fixed now.

Oh! I'm so delighted! I remember a year or two ago, a mention in this discussion about turning classic thumbprints into savory cookies with cheddar and pepper jelly. Now there's an actual recipe. I can't wait to make them. My only question: can I omit the nut crust? I've got nut allergics and dislikers in the house. Will they still hold together without the nuts?

Absolutely, you can omit the nut crust. But do dip the cookies into the egg white for a shinier finish on the finished cookie.

I typically use Gold Medal all purpose flour. Any recommendations?

Gold Medal's good; expert bakers tend to specify unbleached.

I'm a King Arthur boy.

Don't forget the Dollar Store!

Congratulations once again for the brilliant Food section with all the cookie recipies! What is best I like about most of these is that they are not complicated. That helps when one is not a "baker!" Thanks again.

Aw, shucks. Well, kudos for these recipes need to land squarely on the shoulders of Ms. Benwick, who curated another beautiful collection...

I have had success with keeping my brown sugar in a zippered bag in the freezer. Just take it out a let it get to room temp before using. Thank you for the haute-meal cookie recipe! I have all of the ingredients at home and shall be baking happily tonight! Hooray for Bacon!

Yay, hooray! I snapped these Haute-Meal Cookies up when looking for stuff to test... Love em.

Can you provide a link to a recipe from a few years back called Anzac Biscuits? It was part of a holiday cookie food section in about 2007.

Sure thing. Here they are. I loved these -- tested them myself.

Hope Jason has the opportunity to answer this, as it is the cookie issue and not related. I'd like to get a nice bottle of liquor for my boyfriend for Christmas. He's a rum fan, but white rum seems too light this time of the year (know you love Flor de Cana). I thought of getting Black Seal, as we're both big fans of the Dark n' Stormy, but it seems too basic, not special enough. He is also a fan of bourbon, but not a connoisseur and probably wouldn't drink it on its own. Could you recommend one or two bottles of either dark rum or bourbon in the $40 to $50 range? Also information of where said bottles could be procured in the DC area would be appreciated. For background, I'm thinking of pairing this with some homemade simple syrups and some vintage barware from the Cocktail Hour in Alexandria.

Well that sounds like a very nice gift indeed. For both bourbon and rum, you can find great stuff for $50 and under.

For bourbon, I'd suggest something like Four Roses Single Barrel, Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18 yr old, or something from Pappy Van Winkle, maybe the 10 yr old "family reserve". (Here's all my recommendations from last year btw.)

As for rum, you really don't need to spend more than $40 or so. You could give him a Pampero Anniversario or a Mount Gay Extra Old for around $35. Or, if you want to go higher, you could do nice reserve rhum agricole, such one from Neisson or Rhum Clement, which will be around $50. And honestly, if you gave me the white Neisson rhum agricole I'd probably think you were the best significant other ever...

All of these bottles have distribution in DC, though Ace Beverage probably has the best selection.

For a relative who has done canning of fruits, I am planning on getting her a book on pickling. What do you recommend as the bible for that subject?

My favorite new preserving book is Put 'Em Up from Sheri Brooks Vinton. Several pickle recipes and some new twists on old favorite jam and jelly recipes.

I second that, and add "Canning for a New Generation" and "The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook." Also, don't overlook "Joy of Pickling." A classic for a reason.

My office has an annual cookie showdown, and I'm determined to win this year. Honest opinion: Will the haute-meal cookies get me the prize? Also, will they freeze OK? Is it better to freeze them baked or unbaked? Thanks---I can't wait to try many of the recipes in today's paper!

They're pretty great, especially if you use a nice smoky bacon. But I don't know what your competition is! I'd freeze the dough, then thaw in the fridge and bake them soon before the competition. If they're even WARM, you'd have a major advantage. Warm cookies are hard to beat.

Do you have tips for packaging cookie and pastry dough for freezing? Can you recommend a brand of plastic wrap to use? I miss the old Saran wrap. Thanks.

I like that Glad Press n Seal stuff. If you have any Anal Retentive Chef qualities and you have enough space to freeze them flat, you can lay one sheet down, arrange cookies spaced an inch apart, then put another sheet down a la ravioli production. Press around each one. Did Saran Wrap go away, or just the particular weight you used to use? Costco sells a big roll of heavier-duty plastic wrap, which I go through like buttah.

If cookie dough will eventually be shaped into balls, I like to go ahead and do that, freeze them separately then store in resealable plastic food storage bags. I also like to  freeze cut-out cookie dough and pie dough that's already rolled out.

Chatters, what do you do?

It's a classic, and out of print, and she might already have it, but in addition to Fannie Farmer, I use Stocking Up put out by the Rodale Press in the 70s.

A few years ago, after an unsuccesful search to find a good recipe for a raspberry lemon cookie, I made it my new year's resolution to learn how to bake so I could come up with my own cookie recipes. Alas, I'm far from that point, but I can say my quest as lead me to love baking (before I never baked -that raspberry lemon cookie was actually my first attempt to make something from scratch). I've made a lot of stuff but I'm definitely not comfortable playing around on my own. So, any suggestions for helping me out in this venture? That cookie app sounded kind of like something I could use, but I want something that would allow me to stretch even more than just playing with the amount of ingredients. Or is this just something I should experiment with on my own? And by the way - love the cookie edition! I gave a little squeal when I saw it online.

I've benefitted from both Michael Ruhlman's Ratio - book or app, and The Flavor Bible. These are great resources when starting to develop your own recipes.

I'm intrigued! But I'm also lazy, and know there's no way I'm going to bake those apples! Any suggestions for a single portion apple toddy without the baked apples? (I've got the Laird's, so that's a start!)

Come on! I'm pretty lazy too, but baking apples is, like, really easy. Ok, so for you, why not just make a regular toddy, but use the Laird's apple brandy instead of whiskey or other spirit. And instead of sugar, use a little maple syrup. If have an apple, you could even cut a slice and drop it in as a garnish...though I realize this is asking a lot. Enjoy!

Okay, now I'm salivating over that recipe. One question, though - where do I find cacao nibs please? Thanks, and happy holidays, Rangers!

I see these in the baking section of more and more stores. Anybody that has a good chocolate selection seems to have them now. I've bought them at Whole Foods, I believe -- Scharffenberger brand.

I'm hosting Christmas Eve dinner for 12. Two are vegetarians. I don't want to have an all-veg menu, or to consign them to side dishes.AllI can think of (to not call attention to their "otherness") is lasagna (one veg, one not), and build a menu around that (antipasti, tiramisu, salad). But it doesn't seem very Christmas-y! I'd like to have braised pork loin for the non-vegs. Can you help me work this out?

Last year, I dealt with the same issue. I made a vegetarian cassoulet with an assortment of interesting heirloom beans. For the carnivores, I had various sausages and duck confit, served alongside.

For the poster looking for soybeans/edamame - I found frozen edamame (still in the pods) in Giant in the frozen food aisle. They weren't with the other vegetables though! They were in a small section for organic food. Just wanted to share that hint since I know I had a tough time finding them for myself. Now I make them all the time - defrost in the microwave and lots of sea salt and fresh ground pepper!

Just wanted to write in response to an earlier question about the chcolate chip cookies using both bread and cake flour... Sounds like my often requested "secret" recipe, which I guess isn't so secret anymore :) Anyway, just wanted to add that both bread and cake flour are sold at local Safeway's and Giant's. Cake flour is almost always sold in a box.

Yep, unless it's my favorite, King Arthur's Queen Gueneviere Cake Flour. But that's hard to find in stores, easier to find from KA's website.

Hello - I have some left over cranberry sauce and I was hoping to somehow incorporate it onto a cheese plate to take to a potluck. I've made a baked brie with cranberry sauce before, but since I won't have a way to heat the brie at the potluck, do you have any ideas/ recipes for how to combine the two without baking? Also -- what are the standard cheese choices for a cheese plate? Thanks!

A good oozy brie, at room temp, doesn't really need oven time. Do what Real Entertaining maven David Hagedorn suggests in his cocktail party column next week: Split a medium-size brie wheel in half horizontally. Slather one side with the cranberry sauce (he used a figgy jam, I think), maybe some spiced pecans or walnuts. Serve with crackers and grapes.

Sorry, and standard choices are a range: soft, mild to hard, strongly flavored. Get thee to Cowgirl Creamery or Cheesetique and have a field day.

What's your thought on food by mail? I want to send a Zingermans gift basket to someone, but it is expensive and I want to make sure it's worth it. Thanks!

Worth it. So many cool things to choose from. I've been snacking on Boat Street Pickled Figs ever since former colleague Jane Black (sniff) brought them back for me. Seeing a Zingerman's package in my mailbox is as exciting as finding a small turquoise Tiffany box on my bedside table. (Husband is way behind his quota on those type of boxes, btw.)

I second Joe's nomination of Canning for a New Generation. Not only are there some wonderful recipes, it's just a great read. I picked it up from the library and sat on the couch for hours reading it through. And yes, my boyfriend thinks I'm a dork (but yet he benefits from my food lust).

Sorry to deviate from cookies, but wondering if you/your audience have a suggestion for a good source for Indian and Thai spices, esp curry paste. The stuff in Whole Foods is bland, which is not a word that should ever describe curry! I'm especially interested in sources online, or in/close to DC or Arlington. Thanks!

Try Penzeys, which is my favorite spice store. They have an online operation that sells curries. But you can also check out Penzeys stores in Rockville or Falls Church.

I'm also a fan of Epices de Cru, a Montreal company I've gotten addicted to on trips there. They sell gorgeous spices online: nothing bland here! Here's their curry page.

If you're thinking about brownies or bars, a 1/2 tsp on an 8x8 pan or a scant 1 tsp on a 9x13 pan seems to balance well with chocolate. The larger the crystals the better -- table salt will be too small, but almost anything else, from kosher to Maldon to the La Baleine "coarse" will do. Also, the Salted Fudge Brownies recipe from Food & Wine is my go-to.

I made the Pine Nut and Rosemary Cookies from last year's cookie issue and was disappointed with too sweetness of the powdered sugar. I think I expected a more savory cookie. Any suggestions to correct the sweetness or modify the recipe?

Not finding those in our database. Sure it came from us?

Thanks for a great 2010 cookie edition! Can't wait to try the Nutella ones, especially. My mom and I are planning a few days to tackle cookie baking for our families and to give as gifts - given your extensive experience with both the recipes this year and in years past, how would you assemble an appealing assortment? We have some standbys (chocolate-dipped orange logs, gingerbread men, iced sugar cookies), but need maybe 4 or 5 more ideas to create a balanced platter.

In tomorrow's All We Can Eat blog, Joe and I -- and maybe that new guy -- will offer our picks of the top 5 cookies of each of the past few years. For cookie plates, I generally like to see something nutty, something buttery, something decorated/pretty, something chocolate, something with confectioners' sugar. Does that help?

Thanks for suggesting Michael Ruhlman's "Ratio" It is a great book for experimenting cooks and also the "non" cooks. I love it.

Every year I give homemade treats as gifts. In the past few years, I've done pumpkin bread. I'm getting a little sick of this, and was wondering if you had any ideas that would work nicely with mini loaf pans? I have some great pans left over from last year that I'd like to use, but I'm open to any kind of treat. Thank you!!!!

Try Nancy Baggett's Glazed Alsatian Honey Spice Bread Mix. Very, very good, and different. Adjust baking times for smaller loaves.

every year my sister in law and I spend a weekend day canning something and give the jars away for holiday/hostess gifts. We've done orange marmalade and mango chutney...even ketchup! Looking for something original, interesting, worth our time and also something special for the people who get a jar. What ideas do you have for us? What would you like to get in a jar?

Here are some of the unusual things I've canned lately - Pickled onions. Hot pepper jelly. Pie fillings. Mincemeat. Bacon marmalade.

How about this Meyer Lemon-Cara Cara Orange Marmalade?  It's gorgeous. I don't think Meyers and CC oranges are QUITE here yet, but it shouldn't be too long.

Initiation Questions, aka hazing: What's your favorite recipe? What's your favorite place to eat in the Baltimore/DC area? What food do you hate the most? Best kept food secret and/or best kitchen advice you ever got?

Thanks for the welcome! I don't have a favorite recipe, as disappointing as that may be, though on days like today I do love making Anthony Bourdain's recipe for boeuf bourguignon.

I answsered the fave places to eat (well sort of) here.

As for foods I hate: I don't really hate much. Seriously. I often say that I don't like maki rolls, because they are more rice than fish, but I just had a really good roll at Zentan this week with Joe Yonan.

Best kitchen advice? I don't know if it was the best, but I remember when I was at L'Academie de Cuisine and one of the sous chefs caught me trying to use one of those garlic rollers, which takes the skin off garlic cloves. She laughed at me and showed me how to crush the clove slightly with your hand and pull the skin off. Simple but eye-opening. One of those tips that saves you from wasting stupid amounts of money at Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma.

I'm looking forward to trying the recipes from this year's cookie guide. They look excellent, especially the haute-meal cookie. I have a question about storage, however. About 2/3 of my cookie recipes seem to go soft and crumbly when stored in cookie jars. It may - but I'm not sure - correlate with the fat content of the cookies, as my lower-fat ratio cookies seem to stay firmer longer. How can I combat the tendency of some of my favorite cookies to crumble after a few days out other than eating them all immediately (bad for the waistline) or storing them in the already-stuffed freezer?

Cookies seem to store the longest when layered between sheets of wax paper in metal tins. I keep the tins in the cold garage and all but the  most delicate will keep for a week or two, easily. Also, pre-portioning and freezing cookie dough allows you to bake two or four or six cookies at a time. In the toaster oven.

That question about foreign spices made me think of this -- cardamom! Add it to your gingerbread cookies and it's sooooo delish. I've added it to chocolate chip cookies for an added kick, too. Just about any cookie that has a spice in it, add a bit of cardamom as well!

Absolutely. A huge cardamom fan here. In my upcoming cookbook, I have a recipe for Snickerdoodles With Cardamom that I think turned out great. Maybe it'll make it into next year's cookie issue, if I'm nice enough to Bonnie in 2011...

To the chatter looking for ways to keep brown sugar from hardening - I pour mine into a mason jar and store in the pantry. It will stay moist there forever.

Yep, an airtight container does help...

My 15 year old son is begging me to make cookies with Maraschino Cherries in them do you have any good recipes? He has had a lot of health issues this year and I really want to do this for him.

Cherry Winks, it is.

I'm looking for a recipe for a denser (but still chewy) oatmeal cookie. It's the last cookie I have to conquer and it's driving me crazy. Any suggestions? Thanks guys!

If you have an iPad, I think you should check out that Cookulus app I wrote about today. As soon as it's available on the Apple store, any day now, there will be oatmeal raisin as one of the options, and you can dial it up to be as chewy as you want.

If you don't, you might try the now-classic Salted Oatmeal Cookies, which are nicely dense/chewy.


I love the taste of cinnamon and medium-spicy chile in chocolate -- something I picked up from David Lebovitz' recipe for Aztec Hot Chocolate Ice Cream. I especially like it with the Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzeys, which has extra bite. Thinking about adding both to a batch of brownies -- what amounts would you suggest for an 8x8 pan? I was thinking a tablespoon of ancho powder and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Note for holiday care package makers: brownies travel better than just about anything else. Wax paper, and maybe a ziploc bag for extra security, and you're good to go. They don't dry out, break, collapse, smush, or crumble in transit.

I think a Tablespoon of ancho powder is too much - would scale it back to a teaspoon. Chile flavors travel fast in chocolate.

I agree that brownies are a great gift to ship. Ship them in the pan, before cutting and they'll stay even fresher.

OK Jason, I've just ordered your book to be part of the spouse's Christmas present. I need to match it with a good bottle, not too expensive. He's a gin drinker (loves the gins with all the herb infusions) and a Scotch drinker (the peatier the better). Any thoughts?

Well, thank you! Ok, for gins, why not go for G'Vine Nouaison from France, or perhaps the Bols genever from Hollad. And for the Scotch...not sure what your price range is, but at around $50-60 I'd say Caol Ila 12 yr old or Glenlivet Nadurra 16 yr old. At around $100, I'd go with something like the Bruichladdich 16-year-old that's finished in French wine casks or else the Ardbeg  Corryvreckan or Supernova or the Bunnahabhain 18 yr old.

a few years ago i sent a soldier overseas a care package of cookies. instead of packing peanuts, i put air popped un-buttered popcorn in gallon size ziploc bags and used them to cushion the cookies. they arrived in one piece and the soldier also had popcorn to feast on.

Cool idea.  Did it make it much heavier?

Last week I asked where chocolate bark for cooking could be found? Did you find it?

Not yet!

Actually, another chatter suggests...

A baker last week wanted to know where to find chocolate bark in DC. I saw lots and lots of varieties at Chocolate Moose, 1743 L St NW. They have milk chocolate bark, dark chocolate bark, white chocolate, peppermint and probably more.

Not so secret, and probably not a big surprise, but one thing that really kicks a cookie up a notch it grinding up some quick-cooking oats and adding them as 1/3 of the flour that's called for. Obviously better for sweet cookies, but I can't help but wonder about adding them to a savory cookie. Maybe you'd get a bit of a flavor like a pie crust if you made cheddar and apple cookies?

I think adding alternate grains is a great idea. (See the oat flour addiiton in my White Chocolate Cherry Pistachio cookies!) I've successfully incorporated buckwheat, brown rice flour, and, of course, whole wheat, in sweet and savory recipes.

Those mythical/urban-legendary Neiman Marcus Cookies use ground oats...

Thanks, as always, Gurus for a great issue!! My oven usually runs "hot" and has a convection option (it's 25+ year old JennAire). I have not had good luck with putting a cookie pan on the top third and another on the bottom and rotating them half-way through--the one that started on the top always burns. Would it be better to use the convection setting and if so, should I lower the temperature and reduce cooking times?

Such a good point. I'd bet that upper/lower thing doesn't work so well with convection, or maybe if you had 4 racks going at once, the hot air might circulate evenly (does that make sense?) Guess I'd go with shorter baking times.

I too am looking for recipes for homemade food-item gift to bring my in-laws. They are pretty health conscious so I'm not sure cookies are the way to go. I'd also like suggestions for pretty wrapping/containers.

I package up homemade granola for those who want to avoid holiday sweets. Also spiced nuts make a great gift.

I have a pretty random, non-holiday question. Last night, I made some spicy squash pasta. The recipe called for red pepper flakes, unfortunately, I didn't have any on hand. I substituted chili powder and black pepper, and it seemed to work ok: a little too Tex-Mex for my taste. My question for you guys, what would YOU substituted to approximate the spicy red pepper flavor?

I'd  have chopped up a dried chili pepper (always, always keep them in my pantry), or maybe added a few drops of Crystal hot pepper sauce.

Yep, I'd pull off a pepper from one of the three (!) chili ristras I have hanging in my kitchen.

Jason I have a huge jug of white Bacardi sitting on my counter. I have a holiday party coming up, what's a good recipe that will get rid of this stuff that doesn't involve setting out cokes for people to use as mixers?

Ha! Yeah, you gotta rid of that stuff. In the spring, I published two rum punch recipes in which I called for cachaca instead of white rum -- the Thieves' Punch and the Cajun Lemonade. But you could also use it in the Honey Spiced Punch, too, and use it instead of cachaca to blend with the more aged rums. In fact, if you wanted to get really tricky, you could buy a cheap bottle of cachaca and mix the two together in either of those recipes. Unless you're inviting serious cocktail geeks over, your guests will never know.

Any idea on where to get FRESH stone crab claws for New Year's Eve? I know Whole Foods sells them frozen but am trying to get fresh. If not, any suggestions on where to order online?? Thanks for the help!

I think it might be kinda hard to get never-frozen ones up here.  I called Maine Avenue seafood places and they said they really come in around February. Maybe you could order direct from Joe's in Fla.

They sound yummy, but is the photo correct? They look awfully dark, considering the ingredients.

Lemon Yogurt Drop Cookies. Yep, go figure.

Loved the warm drinks ideas. I've always been a big fan of making mulled wine/cider. I usually find mulling spices at William Sonoma or somewhere similar but is there a way to make your own mulling spices? And what wine really mulls the best?

For mulled wine, I'd go for a big red like Cabernet Sauvignon, Rioja, etc. You don't need to buy a mulling spice kit -- just get cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and orange peels and you'll be good to go. Here's a recipe for glögg, the traditional Swedish mulled wine, from the Post's archives.

Just wanted to provide a tip for people using your gingerbread cookie recipe from last week. If you get halfway through and get tired of rolling out the dough for cookies ... throw in some dark chocolate chips and make gingerbread chocolate chip cookies. You'll just have to play with the cooking time to adjust for the extra thickness. DEEEEEE-lish.


Everyone loves the spiced nuts I make.

I don't want to do what I used to do before I married: stir fry veggies and serve over pasta every day. But can't justify much work just for moi. Quick ideas?

Check out my monthly column on the topic. Hope you'll get some good ideas! And if you've got favorite serves-too-many recipes you want me to take down to single-serving size, check out my Project Downscale blog posts  -- send to me and I'll tackle.

So, I bought a nice bottle of Bourbon and need drink ideas! I found that I like it warm, given the cold weather. Any good warm bourbon drink ideas to share? Here's one in exchange for yours (via Martha Stewart Everyday Food's twitter): Warm Maple Bourbon 1 tbl real maple syrup 1 oz bourbon 2 whole cloves Combine above ingredients in a mug and top with hot water to taste.

To be honest, I'd save a nice bottle of bourbon for something simple, like an Old Fashioned, or a Manhattan, or simply two ice cubes. But that's a nice recipe that Martha recommends. You could maybe try to replace the rum in this recipe and make it a Hot Buttered Bourbon?

Thank you so much for the recipes! I have a question about the cheddar cheese thumbprints. I'd like to make them today. Can I cheat and freeze the dough instead of refrigerating it overnight? Thanks

The cheddar dough will freeze really well. I've also kept it in the refrigerator for three days, making a dozen cookies at a time when company stopped over.

My s.o. has recently developed an interest in making all kinds of creative milkshakes. They're tasty, but he's been disappointed that he can't make them as thick and luscious as the ones he gets at ice cream shops. I'm considering getting him a dedicated milkshake-maker for Christmas -- I'm usually anti-single-purpose equipment, but is this how ice cream parlors make their milkshakes so great? Or perhaps a better blender is the answer -- ours is fairly cheap. Or is there a magic technique to the ultimate milkshake?

I believe that Adam Ried, who wrote the most recent book on the subject ("Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes"), endorses true milkshake makers that can break down the ice  and blend it successfully with the other ingredients.  Find a blender that says it can do that.

This was the first cookie recipe I made back in the 70s. My mother only made Greek pastries and I envied all the other kids their American christmas cookies. She was not amused by my taking over the kitchen to produce the cherry winks. I'm sorry to say they were not chosen over the baklava and kourabiedes available to guests that season. I never expected to see them in the Post food section, so thanks for reviving the memories! Things have come full circle and now the non-Greeks back in my home town pray to be on Mom's Greek cookie gift list at Christmas.

Speaking of retro, I tried these and then used leftover cornflakes to coat some oven-baked chicken.

I'm eating so many clementines this month, I may turn into one. Can I use those peels in the mix for mulling spices? I don't like regular oranges so hardly ever buy them.

Sure, why not give it a try? Will report back and let us know how it worked?

I'm dying to make the chocolate-dipped three pepper cookies, but I never use vegetable shortening and don't want to buy it just for 1 TBSP. I recently made a cake with a chocolate glaze that combined bittersweet chocolate and light corn syrup; would that work here? Or is there another substitution I can try?

I often substitute unsalted butter for shortening.

i was thinking instead of actually baking cookies for everyone in my office this year, i would do cookie jars, with all of the dry ingredients, so they can bake them as they wish at home (i will attach the recipe to each jar). which cookie recipes do you think will work best for this type of gift?

I like to put M&M cookies or a cookie that uses a nut or dried fruit in a jar. Otherwise the colors are pretty dull - white sugar, brown sugar, flour...

Portion control issue. I plan on having a big dinner party, but i m not certain about serving sizes. I plan on making 3-4 starters guests can pick at than for dinner, i plan on serving four main courses. My problem, how many pounds of shrimp do i want to serve? How many pounds of pasta? Thanks

Do you mean shrimp as apps or for a main course? (For starters, 4 large shrimp per person. For main course, figure on at least 4 ounces per person.) Figure on 2 ounces of dried pasta per person (3 if you've got big eaters).

Hope you'll allow a candy question in with the cookie issue. I making fudge using the marshmallow cream recipe. I like to use small cookie cutters to cut the fudge into festive shapes instead of plain squares. It works well since that is a reasonably soft fudge. But the problem is the scraps in between the pieces - specifically that I eat them all myself, and that's not good for me:) So I'm wondering if it is possible to gather all the scraps in a pot and remelt them and then pour into another slab to cut again?

Ace candy/cookie baker Nancy Baggett (who will have some great recipes in our Dec. 22 edition, btw), says:

You MIGHT be able to do this--I am not sure, but you could try. One trick will be not heating the scraps to the point they actually cook--which would made the fudge too tough and maybe grainy. I'd try this in the microwave, nuking on low power and stirring every 20 to 30 seconds. If it works and the fudge softens enough to flow back together, immediately pour it into the prepared container. If it doesn't, well it just doesn't. I admit I have not ever tried it--I am a little skeptical about yours because most marshmallow fudge recipes set up fast and fairly firm.  Tip: You might try just a few scraps first, as a test.

Welcome, Tim! I've loved reading your stuff at CP. A big CONGRATS on the move to Wa Po! Sign me, *old* and hungry (and hoping to read articles aimed at my demographic)

Thank you! What stories would you like to see?

The best warm drink -- the BEST, Jerry, the best! -- is to pour some butterscotch schnapps into hot chocolate. If you make from a mix, pour the schnapps in last, but if you heat up an entire pot of hot cocoa, pour the schnapps into the pot with it. Absolutely top notch.

Butterscotch. Schnapps. Let me just say those two words out loud and ponder them for a moment. Ok, done. Now, I will set aside my preconceptions about butterscotch schapps, and its ilk, and I will give this a try and report back. Do you recommend any butterscotch schapps in particular? Is there a top-shelf butterscotch schnapps, for instance, that I should be looking for?

Does anyone sell the dried chilies in bulk? I wanted to make my own Christmas wreath.

I don't know anywhere that sells dried peppers in bulk quantities, but most Hispanic markets sell bagged dried peppers.  You can get about six to eight per bag, if memory serves. You can also find bagged dried peppers in the Latin sections at some grocery stores, like Shoppers.

Good Afternoon - Love the cookie issue! Do you all have any suggestions for a good breakfast casserole I can make on Christmas day? We are hosting this year and folks are driving in from 1-3 hours away that morning and I want to make sure they eat when they arrive. Thank you and happy holidays!

Try the Baked Apple, Smoked Turkey and Cheddar Strata. Marveilleux. Assemble and refrigerate overnight.

We have a half-bushel of lovely apples, and would like to do something nice with them for a few gifts. Do you have recommendations other than apple bread (for which we already have a terrif recipe)? Preferably somethign that can hold or.... if absolutely necessary... freeze... for a couple weeks. Thanks.

Make apple toddies, per the recipe in today's column. I cannot recommend these highly enough.

Other ideas---quesadillas, mini pita-pizzas, soup (you can make a big batch and then freeze for later use), inventive and creative sandwiches...

Yes, yes, yes and yes!

Cathy said the colors are often boring: a layer of dried cranberries would perk them up.

Today's Food Section recipe for pork scaloppine looks like a great quick dinner (all the more time to devote to making holiday cookies). I get confused with pork loin and pork tenderloin -- are they the same thing? What am I looking for at the store? Thanks!

Not the same. Easiest way to remember is size. Pork tenderloin's long and kinda narrow, usually 12 ounces to a pound each. Pork loin may be tied  like a rolled roast, or is at least 4 inches wide.

A huge thank you to WaPo (the best food section/chat anywhere). I had chimed in a couple of weeks ago about not having received a gift book several years prior, was put in touch with Becky and got a book entirely on chocolate cakes - all of which look yummy. Happy Holidays and looking forward to cookie baking and candy making (honeycomb) for gifts this weekend.

Becky Krystal's crackerjack.

Any ideas for vegan cookies? I LOVE my butter in cookies, but I have a vegan friend coming over for the holidays and I'd like to make her something good too.

Some bar cookies can be made substituting olive oil for the butter. I've also had luck with hermit-type cookies.

I am not the original poster, but I made it, too, and it definitely came from the WaPo cookie issue. I thought it was weird, too, but intriguingly so. In fact, we thought it tasted like Aveda rosemary mint shampoo smells! How many home bake goods can you say that about?

Sorry bout that -- here they are! Tuscan Rosemary Pine Nut Bars. The "shortbread" reference threw us, cause that's not in the title. We've been making way too  many cookies to think straight!

Editor Joe, making excuses for me. Your Aveda smells like these cookies -- not the other way 'round! We'd have to retest with less sugar, because butter/sugar ratios for shortbread are pretty specific.

Well, you've dipped us in chocolate to your liking (covering one-quarter or half of each of us), allowing any excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl, then placed us on wax paper as you work, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks, all for the great q's, and thanks to Cathy for helping us handle them! Hope we helped get you baking or otherwise cooking with confidence.

Now for the giveaway books. They will go to these two chatters: the one who found that missing step in the Chocolate Spice Cookies. And the one who asked for help learning to create his/her own cookie recipes. Just send us your mailing addresses to, and we'll get them to you.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading...

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