Did your family dunk? We did. Oreos in milk, and for the older set, chocolate chip cookies in coffee. If you didn't grow up in a dunking family, you might not know that biscotti are twice-baked Italian cookies, so crispy that the best way to eat them is to dip them in coffee, or tea, or vin santo, a Tuscan dessert wine. The biscotti absorb the liquid, and just before they fall apart, you pop them in your mouth. Almost every recipe for pumpkin cookies or cupcakes or custard calls for half a cup of pumpkin pureé, so you're sure to have a little container of leftover in the refrigerator, just enough for these pumpkin chocolate chip biscotti, or you can substitute canned squash pureé. These cookies will stay crisp for a few days in an airtight container.
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When life hands you the perfect recipe for the perfect thin, crispy-but-not-too-crisp oatmeal cookies, seize the opportunity and turn them into the perfect ice cream sandwiches. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Just head directly for the freezer, get out your favorite ice cream, and transform these cookies into everyone's favorite party dessert.
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Until my husband Ted, Cousin Martin and I visited Tlacolula, a small village near Oaxaca, on a New Year's Eve some years ago, I didn't really "get" Mexican chocolate. The only business open on the holiday, save for the three-table restaurant where we had the most incredible mole colorado of all time, was the village grindery, where people would bring their grain, coffee or chocolate to be ground. As we walked along the main street, we caught the distinct aromas of chocolate and cinnamon which, together with sugar, make what we know as Mexican chocolate. These cookies don't use actual Mexican chocolate but they incorporate all of the key flavors, plus the tiniest bit of cayenne pepper, which doesn't make the cookies spicy, but simply must be there. The first time we made them, we used a Scharffen Berger mocha dark chocolate bar, and the addition of the coffee taste took these cookies over the top.
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One of the disadvantages of working at home -- and there are few, really -- becomes very obvious when you bake something as irresistible as these fudge mocha brownies. If you work outside the house, you can bring your baked goodies with you and distribute them among your colleagues, who will do a happy dance when they see these brownies coming. However, when you work at home, and the kitchen is in the center of your house, and you must walk through the kitchen to get from your office to any other room or to the front door or the back door, and the aroma of fudgy brownies cooling on the countertop grabs you each time you pass by... well, you understand the problem. As you know, I'm not much of a baker, but I've been having great success with recipes from Cooking Light Quick Baking, a magazine special published in Fall 2010. It took me longer to collect the ingredients from the pantry than to put these brownies together. The original recipe calls for a crushed toffee topping, but they're rich enough without it.
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Here in my log house kitchen, we're setting up for our annual Drop In & Decorate® cookies-for-donation event this coming weekend. Over two days, more than 50 people will stop by to decorate the world's best sugar cookies for donation to nonprofit agencies serving our neighbors facing the challenges of hunger, homelessness or domestic violence.
At the same time, I know many of you are baking for your annual cookie exchanges with friends or family.
So, it seems like the perfect time to swap some of our very favorite cookie recipes, made with ingredients we always have in the pantry -- as we say here in Rhode Island, flauwah, sugah and buddah -- the cookies we'd bring to a cookie exchange.
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