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Attention holiday bakers: Eggnog Cookies and Apricot Torte

Thursday, December 06, 2001

We're willing to bet that there are more cookies and cakes baked during the holiday season than at any other time. And you can count Kitchen Mailbox as one of those busy holiday cookie bakers. This month we will tempt our readers with mouth-watering cookies, cakes and other holiday food.

 

Today's treats are Eggnog Cookies and Apricot Torte. The cookies are similar to sugar cut-outs with the addition of eggnog. We suggest buying ready-made eggnog instead of making your own. We bought Land O' Lakes Gourmet Eggnog, but there are other selections as well.

Apricot Torte is not truly a torte (a rich multilayered cake made with ground nuts or bread crumbs instead of flour). This Apricot Torte is made up of three layers of a sweet yeast dough. Between the layers are a nut filling and an apricot filling (apricot can be substituted). After baking, the torte is cut into diamond-shaped cookies (maybe this recipe should be called apricot torte cookies).

Because we bake early in December, we freeze our cookies. For the Apricot Torte we wrapped the entire pan (cookies remained in the pan) with foil, then wrapped the pan a second time with freezer paper. The Eggnog Cookies we placed in single layers, putting waxed paper between each layer. The cookies are then put in freezer bags. We'll remove both cookies the day before we make up our holiday trays.

Before you begin your holiday baking, check out these baking tips. Fresh ingredients are a must, so here are a few tips on how to check for freshness:

Spices: If the spice is fresh, it will have a strong fragrance; if it doesn't, don't use it.

Nuts: Shelled nuts should be crisp and uniform in color, not shriveled or discolored. Nuts should smell and taste fresh; they should not have an off flavor.

Baking soda: When baking soda is combined with an acid, such as buttermilk or molasses, it produces carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which cause dough or batter to rise. Because baking soda immediately reacts when it's moistened, it should be mixed with the dry ingredients before you add liquid. To test the potency of baking soda, combine 1/4 teaspoon with 2 teaspoons vinegar -- if it bubbles, the baking soda is still active.

Baking powder: This is a combination of baking soda, an acid (such as cream of tartar) and a moisture absorber (such as cornstarch). As with baking soda, when baking powder is mixed with a liquid, it releases gas bubbles which cause a cake or bread to rise. To test the potency of baking powder, combine 1 teaspoon with 1/3 cup hot water. If the mixture bubbles vigorously, it's fine.

Source: "Food Lover's Tiptionary" by Sharon Tyler Herbst and www.landolakes.com.

Finally, we recommend using real butter and real vanilla extract -- they make a huge difference in taste.

Lois Merkel of Mount Oliver requested a recipe for eggnog cookies. Here's the recipe sent by Helen Lamison of Carnegie.

Eggnog Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened (we used butter)
2 cups sugar
1 cup eggnog
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
5 1/2 cups flour, see note
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Colored sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda and nutmeg; set aside. Cream butter and sugar; beat in eggnog. Gradually add flour mixture and mix well. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes; place on ungreased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with colored sugar.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Yields about 16 dozen cookies, depending on the thickness of the dough.

Note: If the dough seems too sticky to roll, add a few tablespoons of flour.

We had two requests for the recipe below. Zora Barnes of Greenville lost her recipe for Russian Torte Cake made with a peach and nut filling. C.J. Draxinger of the South Hills has been searching for a bar cookie with a phyllo-type crust and an apricot and nut filling. Although each request described the recipe in a different way, we thought the recipe sent by Millie Sommer of Bethel Park might fit each description.

Apricot Torte

Nut filling:
1 pound ground walnuts (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup sugar

Dissolve 1 envelope dry yeast in 1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees).

Dough:
1 envelope dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) margarine or butter (we used butter)
4 egg yolks, whites reserved
4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
2 (10-ounce) jars apricot filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the nut filling; set aside. Combine the yeast and 1/4 cup warm water; set aside until yeast is dissolved. Beat together butter and egg yolks. Stir in the flour, milk and yeast mixture and mix well. Knead slightly. Divide dough into 3 balls. Roll one ball of dough to fit a slightly greased 15-by-10-by-1-inch pan. Place dough in the pan and up the sides of the pan. Spread 3/4 of the nut filling over dough. Roll second ball out and place on top of the nut filling. Press down gently along the edges. Spread both jars of apricot filling over second layer. Roll out third dough layer and place on top of the apricot filling. Place in preheated oven for 35 minutes.

Beat 4 egg whites until stiff. Add 8 tablespoons sugar and beat until dissolved; spread on baked cake. Sprinkle remaining nut filling on top. Bake additional 10 minutes. Cut into diamond shapes immediately.

Requests

Millie Sommer of Bethel Park lost her recipe for Angie's Biscotti. One of the ingredients was Orville Redenbacher's buttery flavored popcorn oil, and the almonds were soaked in alcohol. This recipe appeared in The Pittsburgh Press.

Letters

This letter regards the appetizer mentioned by food editor Suzanne Martinson in her Sunday column: "A few weeks ago you mentioned a super easy appetizer using cream cheese, cocktail sauce and shrimp. We like this recipe using a can of crab meat instead of the shrimp. We put the crab meat on the cream cheese and then pour on the sauce. Try it, and we hope you like it. We enjoy your column each week!" -- Sharon Beattie, Churchill.

In another variation, Rosa Colucci of the PG staff makes this appetizer but mixes the crab meat into the cream cheese (by hand ) and then tops it with cocktail sauce.


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.

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