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Kitchen Mailbox: Fruity cookies decorate many a picnic basket

Thursday, June 15, 2000

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

We could give a long and tedious history lesson on the origins of the cookie. But we'll get right to the point -- when cookies began in third-century Rome, they were dry, tasteless and hard as rock. It didn't get any better until the Dutch (they added sugar to the dough) invented a sweet wedding cake known as koekje (little cake). The koekje became popular in England, where its name soon became cookie.

Today, cookies rank up there with pies and cakes in dessert popularity. You can't pick up a magazine or cookbook and not find a new treat or a variation of an old cookie recipe.

As you may have guessed, our recipes today are cookie recipes. The first cookie, Cherry Bombs, are real attention-getters. Cherry Bombs are made with a soft cookie dough and maraschino cherries (with stems if possible). After the cookies are baked, they're dipped in a sweet icing that's tinted with the cherry juice and then rolled in either nuts or coconut. This is a great cookie table cookie.

The next two recipes are variations of the same cookie. Skillet Cookies is a no-bake recipe. The ingredients are placed in a skillet and allowed to simmer for 5 minutes. They are then formed into balls and rolled in powdered sugar. Date Nut Balls are basically the same, except they are baked in the oven instead of cooked on top of the stove.

We like the combination of the nuts and dates in both cookies. We especially liked how easy they were to make.

Rosie Lucia of Bethel Park requested a recipe for these sweet treats. Here's a recipe from Sara J. Palka of Glenshaw.

Cherry Bombs

3 (8-ounce) jars maraschino cherries with stems, juice reserved
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound flaked coconut
Finely ground nuts, optional

Drain cherries well; reserve juice. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add flour and salt. Blend thoroughly (if dough appears dry, add a teaspoon of milk). Place a teaspoon of dough in palm of hand and flatten. Place cherry in center with stem upright -- wrap dough around cherry to base of stem -- and place on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not let cookies brown. Cool completely. Make cherry icing.

Cherry Icing

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Cherry juice
Enough milk to make a thick glaze

Combine powdered sugar and cherry juice; add enough milk to make a thick glaze. Dip cookie into icing -- drip off excess and gently roll in coconut or ground nuts. Place on cookie rack to dry before storing.

Note: To make the icing, we used 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cherry juice and 1 teaspoon milk. Add more juice or milk if you feel the icing is too thick.

M.L. Lococo of Brighton Heights requested a recipe for a date cookie rolled in powdered sugar. Here's a recipe sent in by Amy Klarer of Bethel Park.

Skillet Cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten well
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
Powdered sugar

In skillet, melt butter. Add dates, nuts, vanilla, sugar and egg. Allow mixture to simmer for five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add Rice Krispies; mix thoroughly. Form into balls. Roll in powdered sugar. If the mixture is too hot to handle, let it cool for about 5 minutes -- but no longer.

Yields about 2 dozen depending on size.

Note: This recipe calls for very small pieces of dates, so they must be chopped again.

Sent in by Sharon Slattery of Banksville.

Date Nut Balls

1 cup chopped dates
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup powdered sugar

Chop dates into small pieces (even though the dates are purchased chopped, they must be chopped even smaller).

In a plastic bag, add chopped dates, flour and baking powder. Shake bag until dates are coated with flour and baking powder. In medium bowl, beat eggs; add date mixture. Pour batter into an 8- or 9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes (we baked for 30 minutes). Let cool until warm to the touch.

Spoon about 1 teaspoon of mixture into palm of hand, roll into ball, then roll cookie in powdered sugar. Place on cookie rack to cool.


Who has a recipe for tomato bisque? Lois G. Lyons of Munhall would appreciate it if one of our readers would send in a recipe.

Donna Gazda of North Side would like a recipe for vanilla icing similar to the icing that Mandl's bakery in Avalon used to make.

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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