Cookies For The Holidays

Do people still bake for the holidays? Years ago, I would move into gear right after Thanksgiving, buying a new cookie cookbook (this was before I could research online) and selecting new recipes. Out came the KitchenAid mixer and pounds of butter softening on the counter. I tried to bake at least one batch a day, sometimes two. Friends came over for a cookie tasting and we selected our favorites. Well, things change and these days cookies get baked only for special occasions.

So when the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program (where I have been doing PR for 37 years) decided to have a cookie exchange, I pulled out the old recipes and made my choice—Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook’s Blondies, which was the number one choice in my 1998 cookie tasting. Kathleen King of Southampton went on to open Tate’s Bake Shop and you can buy her baked good in most supermarkets.

Hotline volunteer Genevieve Picone of Lynbrook also chose a recipe from a Long Island chef…Ina Garner.

“I got her English Chocolate Crisps off the TV years ago,” said Picone. “She made it sound so easy and it was. I knew it wouldn’t be a holiday without chocolate. Everyone likes chocolate.”

Yes, indeed. Chocolate makes its way into many of the cookies contributed for the cookie exchange. In addition to my Blondies and Genevieve’s Chocolate Crisps, the chocolate cookies that will make their appearance include Chocolate Bliss, Coconut Chocolate Chip Oatmeal, Toll House Chocolate Chip, Flourless Chocolate Almond and Coconut, and just simply “Chocolate Cookies.” Chewy Chocolate Nuggets from Westbury’s Susan Shulman contain a very generous amount of chocolate in ratio to the other ingredients. Shulman is the unofficial volunteer captain of the Adelphi team that fund raises for the breast cancer program through the LI2Day Walk held every spring.

Other cookies such as Buckeyes, baked by administrative assistant Michelle Lamberson of Valley Stream, don’t reveal that chocolate is an ingredient until you read the recipe.
Some of the cookies are from family recipes. Volunteer Narges Rothermel was taught by her mother-in-law to cook and bake.

“Russian tea balls, also called Nut Balls, was one of her recipes that was easy to follow,” said the Levittown resident. “I am grateful for what I learned from her.”

Westbury’s Christina Demosthenous is baking Melomakarona, using her mother’s recipe.

“During the holidays, if you walk into a Greek bakery, or if you are in Greece, I swear the environment smells like these cookies,” she said. The wonderful aroma probably comes from the orange peel, cinnamon and cloves in the cookies.

Volunteer Diane Ventimiglia, a Farmingdale resident, finds baking Anginetti a way to recreate special memories of the past. Anginetti is an Italian cookie-biscuit from the Naples region with hints of anise, lemon and vanilla.

“Waking up on Christmas morning was not complete without a cup of coffee and an Anginetti,” she said.

For Hanukkah, there are several recipes to choose from. Hotline volunteer Randee Adan of Woodmere says she was always a bit jealous of her non-Jewish friends who baked for weeks prior to Christmas. Her offering is Mandel Bread, a cookie much like biscotti. There is also a shared Mandel Bread recipe from program director Hillary Rutter of Plainview and hotline volunteer Barbara Bornstein of Freeport. It was Bornstein’s recipe first and Rutter adopted it as a favorite. Volunteer Debbie Langendorff of East Rockaway included a macaroon recipe for the cookies she makes for her family for Passover.

And for cuteness, try assistant director Reyna Machado’s Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies. This Garden City resident shapes her dough into triangles, pressing pretzels into the top to make antlers and uses M&Ms or Red Hots to make a nose and eyes.

Narges Rothermel’s Nut Balls

¼ cup of honey
1 cup butter or Canola oil
2 cups flour
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp of salt
2 cups chopped walnut
Confectioners sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Cream the butter (or use oil). Add honey and beat until it is fluffy. Blend in vanilla. Add flour, salt and walnuts. Mix well.

3. Make small balls and put them on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degree preheated oven. Let cool just a few minutes, then, while the balls are still warm, roll them in confectioned sugar and let cool.

Randee Adan’s Mandel Bread

¾ cup sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups plus 2 teaspoons flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
⅓-½ cup sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon mixture
1 small bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional but they add flavor)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2. Mix sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the egg mixture. Add the chips and nuts. The dough will be very soft.

3. Make 2 loaves (long and thin, they barely rise during baking) and place on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture on top.

4. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool slightly and slice. Turn pieces on side and sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake 5-10 additional minutes. Turn the slices over, sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Note: The chocolate chips/walnuts may be substituted with white chips and craisins or any combo you desire.

All these recipes and more can be found online at Happy baking!

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Lyn Dobrin
Lyn Dobrin is a writer for Long Island Weekly, specializing in food and travel features.

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