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It's almost time for holiday baking

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 5:25 a.m. MDT

Clockwise from back left: petits fours de noel, sweet-surplus-of-chocolate, oatmeal raisin, molasses construction crumples, petits fours a l'anise, triple chocolate cookies (with walnuts) and almond crescents.    (Bart Ah You, Mct) Clockwise from back left: petits fours de noel, sweet-surplus-of-chocolate, oatmeal raisin, molasses construction crumples, petits fours a l'anise, triple chocolate cookies (with walnuts) and almond crescents. (Bart Ah You, Mct)

Life is sweet, especially since a batch of home-baked cookies can still make someone's day. Butter and sugar prices may give some bakers pause this holiday season. Don't let them. We've scoured through the new batch of cookbooks and baked up a selection of cookies with an eye on tight food budgets. One recipe requires no butter, another uses shortening, one is light on sugar, and some don't skimp at all.

Here's more on the cookbooks:

"One Sweet Cookie: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes," by Tracey Zabar (Rizzoli, $30): The international array of cookies includes cherished family favorites and signature best sellers from 70 of New York's best culinary talents. This is a book to buy and keep; has glossy paper and color photographs.

"The Cookiepedia: Mixing, Baking, and Reinventing the Classics," by Stacy Adimando (Quirk, $18.95): Each section begins with pictures of all the cookies, from buttery to chocolaty, fancy to fruity, spicy to nutty and seedy. This is a great gift for beginning bakers.

Don't let the higher prices of sugar and butter stop your holiday cookie baking such as this petis fours de noel cookie. (Bart Ah You, Mct) Don't let the higher prices of sugar and butter stop your holiday cookie baking such as this petis fours de noel cookie. (Bart Ah You, Mct)

"Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story," by Kimberly "Momma" Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $29.99): This collection down memory lane — featuring cakes, pies, cookies, bars and candies — includes church windows, those beautiful no-bake slice cookies made with colored marshmallows. Yum.

"Biscuiteering Book of Iced Cookies," by Harriet Hastings and Sarah Moore (Kyle Books, $18.95): There are fewer than a dozen cookie recipes in this book, but the iced cookie ideas and templates will hook you and inspire you. This book arrived too late to try any of the recipes.

"Baking Style: Art — Craft — Recipes," by Lisa Yockelson (Wiley, $45): Words can't do justice to this decadent ride through baking in all its buttery glory. This is a book meant to be treasured and savored and enjoyed as much for the recipes as for the photographs and Yockelson's thoughtfully written prose.

Don't let the higher prices of sugar and butter stop your holiday cookie baking such as creating this dough for petis fours de noel cookie. (Bart Ah You, Mct) Don't let the higher prices of sugar and butter stop your holiday cookie baking such as creating this dough for petis fours de noel cookie. (Bart Ah You, Mct)

"So Sweet! Cookies, Cupcakes, Whoopie Pies, and More," by Sur la Table (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $15): This book arrived too late to try any of the recipes, but its colored photographs, gift-able size and breadth of whoopie pie recipes mean it won't be sitting on the bookshelf too long.

GREAT PUMPKIN COOKIES

"These delicious moist cookies have been a favorite of my family and customers for years," said Fiorenza in an email. "If you are a pumpkin lover, these cookies are for you and even if you don't believe in the 'great pumpkin' once you've tried these cookies, you will become a believer!"

Chef Lee Vera also makes a selection of gluten-free cookies.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

Don't let the higher prices of sugar and butter stop your holiday cookie baking. Shown are, clockwise from back left, petits fours de noel, sweet-surplus-of-chocolate, oatmeal raisin, molasses construction, petits fours a l'anise, triple chocolate cookies (with walnuts) and almond crescents. (Bart Ah You, Mct) Don't let the higher prices of sugar and butter stop your holiday cookie baking. Shown are, clockwise from back left, petits fours de noel, sweet-surplus-of-chocolate, oatmeal raisin, molasses construction, petits fours a l'anise, triple chocolate cookies (with walnuts) and almond crescents. (Bart Ah You, Mct)

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup canned pumpkin

2 cups flour

1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all dry ingredients in separate bowl and slowly stir into pumpkin mixture. Place spoonfuls of dough on buttered baking sheet.

 (Bart Ah You, Mct) (Bart Ah You, Mct)

Bake 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until center of cookie is lightly firm to the touch.

You can add chocolate chips to the dough to make great chocolate chip pumpkin cookies.

— Toni Fiorenzaof Toni's Courtyard Cafe & Catering, Merced, Calif.

OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES

Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned or quick-cook oats

2/3 cup raisins

Instructions: Cream together the butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla and mix a bit more. Sift flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a bowl. Pour in the flour mixture and work mixer on low just to work in dry ingredients. Stir in oats and raisins with a spoon.

Scoop out tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto parchment-paper-lined sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake 12 to 14 minutes at 350 degrees.

Chilling dough results in a taller, chewier cookies.

— "The Cookiepedia: Mixing, Baking, and Reinventing the Classics," by Stacy Adimando (Quirk, $18.95)

SWEET-SURPLUS-OF-CHOCOLATECOOKIES

Makes about 21 cookies

Ingredients:

2/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon unsifted bleached all-purpose flour

teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 large egg yolks

2 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons quick-cooking (not instant) rolled oats

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup firmly packed sweetened coconut

Instructions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together.

Cream the butter in the large bowl of a free-standing mixer on low speed for three to four minutes.

Add the brown sugar and beat on moderate speed for one minute. Add the granulated sugar and beat one minute longer.

Add the egg yolks, beating on low speed until just incorporated. Blend in the vanilla extract and then the sifted ingredients until flour particles are just absorbed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and then blend in the rolled oats, then the chocolate chips and coconut.

Place 3 tablespoon mounds of dough about 3 inches apart on prepared baking pans. Bake 16 to 17 minutes, or until just set.

The edges off the cookies will be just a bit darker than the centers.

— "Baking Style," by Lisa Yockelson (Wiley, $45)

PETITS FOURS A L'ANISE

Makes about 100 cookies

When you bake these cookies, they rise a little and look like mushrooms.

Ingredients:

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon whole anise seeds

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for flouring pastry sheets

Unsalted butter for pastry sheets

Instructions: Butter pastry sheets and dust with flour.

Put sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix for about 10 minutes on high speed, until a ribbon forms when a whisk is inserted and lifted from the mixture.

Add the anise seeds and beat for a few minutes more, until the seeds are blended.

By hand, with a spatula, gently fold in the flour. Put this dough in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip. Pipe dough onto the pastry sheets, forming circles ¾-inch across.

Let them dry overnight, or at least four hours, at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes.

— "One Sweet Cookie: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes," by Tracey Zabar (Rizzoli, $30)

PETITS FOURS DE NOEL

Makes about 100

Ingredients:

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 ounces candied orange peel (optional)

8 ounces ground almonds

Grated zest of 1 lemon

3 small eggs

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

1 egg beaten with a little cold water

Instructions: Cream butter and sugar. Add cinnamon, candied orange peel, almonds, lemon zest and three eggs and mix thoroughly. Add flour and knead until you have a smooth paste.

Enclose dough in plastic wrap and let rest in refrigerator overnight, or up to two to three days.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter a pastry sheet and dust it with flour.

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to a ¼-inch thickness. Cut with cookies cutters. Combine scraps and roll and cut again.

Arrange cutouts on the pastry sheet. Brush them with beaten egg. Bake until they are golden brown, about 10 minutes.

— "One Sweet Cookie," Andre Soltner

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE COOKIES

Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients:

1¾ cups all-purpose flour and ¼ cup cocoa

1¾ teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1¼ cups dark brown sugar and ¼ cup sugar

3 eggs

11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions: Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. Set a small pot of water on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl atop the pot. Stir chocolate until it's melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix to combine. Pour in the melted chocolate and continue beating. Add the flour mixture and chocolate chips, half at a time, and mix on low speed, until just incorporated. Refrigerate dough 15 to 20 minutes, or until firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for eight to 10 minutes. Cookies will firm once cooled.

— "The Cookiepedia"

MOLASSES CONSTRUCTIONCRUMPLES

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients:

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup vegetable shortening

1 cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup molasses

1 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar, for rolling

Instructions: Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a large bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the shortening and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Mix in the egg and molasses on low speed until blended. Add the flour mixture gradually, and beat until just incorporated, about one minute. Form the dough into a ball, and cover tightly with plastic. Chill for at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line sheets with parchment paper. Put granulated sugar in a small bowl. Roll a tablespoonful of dough into a ball the size of a large walnut. Dip the top half of the dough ball in sugar and place it sugar side up on the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies are set but soft in the center.

— "Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story," by Kimberly "Momma" Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $29.99)

ALMOND CRESCENTS

Makes about 28 cookies

Ingredients:

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder and ? teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (plus 2 1/2 cups for dredging baked cookies)

11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

¾ cup slivered almonds for pressing on the baked cookies

Instructions: Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Scatter over the finely chopped almonds and whisk to combine.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the melted butter, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract. Add the flour almond mixture and stir to form a dough. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place slivered almonds in bowl.

Scoop up 1 tablespoon-size pieces of dough and roll into stubby logs. Place each log of dough 2 inches apart on baking pan. Form the logs into crescent shapes, tapering the ends slightly. Apply sliced almonds to the top of the cookies and gently plump up the dough. Bake cookies 15 to 16 minutes, or until set and light golden. Cool cookies. Dredge the cookies in confectioners' sugar. Wait 20 minutes and dredge in sugar again.

— "Baking Style," by Lisa Yockelson (Wiley, $45)

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