Bake the World a Better Place with These Holiday Cookies

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Photo by Donna Good.
Story and Cookie Photos by Laura Davis
The holidays are in full swing here on the Shore. Christmas parades lining our downtown streets, festive lights all about, church services and school performances–we are so fortunate to live in a place that shines so brightly this time of year.
Cookie baking is in full swing in my kitchen. I love to share treats with friends and neighbors, usually in tins lined with wax paper from the dollar store. Gifting homemade goodies is something that’s fallen by the wayside, I feel, but it’s a tradition I’m trying to keep going strong.
Here are a few of my old standbys to start getting those lists compiled, if you haven’t already. Everyone has his or her own family favorites that you’ll want to add to your cookie cornucopia. We should honor those recipes past.
I highly encourage you to grab some loved ones and report to the kitchen stat. You’ll be making treasured memories that will last a lifetime. Merry Christmas, Eastern Shore!
Laura Davis is a food writer/photographer based on Chincoteague Island. Her work has been featured in publications such as Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Taste of Home, and Savor Virginia. She blogs about food, drinks, and new recipes at tideandthyme.com
 
Rum Balls
• 1 box vanilla wafers, crushed in a food processor
• 6 oz semisweet chocolate
• 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
• 1/4 light corn syrup
• 2/3 cup rum (Captain Morgan or Myers)
• pinch of salt
• 2 cups pecans lightly toasted
• 1/2 cup confectioner sugar (for rolling)Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water. In a large bowl combine brown sugar, corn syrup, rum and salt. Add melted chocolate, crushed vanilla wafers, and half the pecans. Mix to combine.
Spread the remaining pecans in a shallow container or plate for rolling. Do the same for the confectioner sugar.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll into nuts or sugar. refrigerate for 24 hours before serving to blend flavors.
Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, or they can be frozen.
Festive Shortbread Bites
• 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 3 tbsp granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold and cut into cubes
• 1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
• 2 tbsp red and green nonpareils or sprinklesPreheat oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour and sugar. Mix to combine. Add in the cubed butter and turn mixer onto low, then increase speed to medium until butter is cut into the flour until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the extract and mix for another 15 seconds.
Dump flour mixture out onto a clean work surface and scrunch dough together with your hands, warming the butter in the dough. Knead the nonpareils into the dough until evenly distributed.
Pat dough into an 8×4-inch rectangle. Cut dough into 1/2 inch squares using a paring knife or pizza cutter. Place squares, 1/2-inch apart, on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake cookies 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cookies can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to a week.
Peanut Brittle
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 cup light corn syrup
• 1 cup water
• 2 cups Spanish peanuts
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 tsp baking sodaLine a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper that’s been lightly buttered. Set aside.
In a heavy, medium size saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and temperature reaches 275 degrees.
Add peanuts and salt, stir occasionally so that the peanuts don’t scorch in spots. Cook to 305 degrees. Add the butter and baking soda, whisking quickly to combine. Mixture will bubble.
Quickly pour brittle onto the prepared baking sheet, smoothing with a rubber spatula to quickly spread the brittle to desired thinness.
Let cool for 45 minutes before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
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