- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

Yes, of course, it’s more satisfying and cheaper to plan all our holiday baking in advance and freeze the wonderful homemade results to enjoy later. And, yes, it’s easy to toss together the ingredients for a great cookie dough in spare moments and slap it into the freezer.

Let’s just say, for the sake of discussion, that we’ve been meaning to do that — we even pulled out a recipe or two — but that, somehow, we were a tiny bit disorganized and that Halloween seemed to slide into Thanksgiving, which somehow turned into a flurry of dirty dishes or travel or both.

Here it is, December, and nothing — and I mean nothing — is done: no gifts, no party dips, no 5 pounds lost. And no cookies or even any thoughts of them.

So if the question really is one of corner-cutting or nothing, then the answer should probably be the former. That’s why prefab cookie dough was born. At this time of year, we can use it to our advantage and for good entertainment.

• Children can cut out stencils with paper, place them on sliced cookie dough and sprinkle them with colored sugar before baking to make original artwork cookies. Or they can frost the baked cookies to look like Santa faces or stars or other holiday-related images. (Whether to make the frosting from scratch presents yet another moral dilemma, which is solved by asking the same question and answering honestly: If I don’t use prefab frosting, will this get done?)

m Children can stick their thumbprints into the middle of sliced prefab cookie dough and fill the prints with little spoonfuls of jam before baking.

• Children can make balls of the cookie dough and roll them in red and green sprinkles before pounding flat with their fists or a plastic glass.

• Children can cut shapes out of prefab cookie dough that an adult has rolled — but the dough is a bit sticky for this, and why bother? If cutouts are the goal and you have time, you’ll do better making your own dough, which will roll more easily and cost less.

• Children can stick candy-cane bits into pieces of cookie dough, flatten them with their hands and then bake them.

Come to think of it, adults can do all of these things, too. So don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t quite get to cookie-making stage this year, but also don’t discard the idea. If you start with a pre-made product, it won’t be exactly as grandmother made them, but it could be lots of fun. And next year, for sure, you’ll get that cookie dough assembled in August. Or November, at least.

Walnut bars

1 18-ounce tube sugar-cookie dough

1 11.5-ounce bag milk chocolate chips, about 13/4 cups

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Remove cookie dough from refrigerator and let stand 10 minutes or so to soften a little. With hands or rolling pin, flatten dough into -inch-thick rectangle to fit bottom of ungreased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Cover edges with foil (so edges don’t burn), and bake on bottom rack of 350-degree oven for 12 to 16 minutes or until cookies begin to turn color in the middle of the pan.

Remove from oven, take off foil, immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over and return to oven for 2 minutes so that chocolate melts. Spread melting chips evenly over top, sprinkle with walnuts, and let cool for 15 minutes. Cut into bars, and refrigerate for at least an hour so that bars have time to set. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Makes about 30 cookies.

Quick Kissed peanut butter cookies

1 18-ounce tube peanut-butter-cookie dough

18 (about) Hershey’s Kisses

Slice cookie dough into -inch-thick rounds. Top each round with an unwrapped Hershey’s Kiss. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets in 350-degree oven for 10 to 14 minutes, or as directed on package. Cool slightly, about 2 minutes, before removing from cookie sheet. Makes about 18 cookies.

Stained-glass-window cookies

1 18-ounce tube sugar-cookie dough

3 tablespoons jelly or jam or colored sugars (see note)

Remove cookie dough from bag. Working fast so that dough stays cold, use the bottom of a cake pan to press dough on all four sides to make the round tube into a rectangular tube. (As dough warms up, it will become more difficult to slice.) Quickly slice cookie dough into ⅛-inch-thick rectangles.

Use small funnel or kitchen knife to cut four tiny circles or squares to make window-pane shapes in half of cookies. Frost other half of cookies with jelly of choice, or sprinkle with colored sugar. (The colors you select will be the colors of the stained-glass windows.)

Top jelly- or sugar-frosted dough with cutout dough, and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown. Let cool on tray. Makes about 20 cookies.

Note: Use whatever flavors you wish to make stained-glass colors.

Candy-topped creamy peanut butter bars

1 18-ounce tube sugar-cookie dough

Flour

3/4 cup margarine or butter, softened

cup peanut butter

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 cup salted peanuts

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

cup whipping cream

cup miniature M&Ms;

Break up cookie dough into ungreased 13-by-9-inch pan. With floured fingers, press dough evenly in bottom of pan to form crust. Bake in 350-degree oven for 12 to 16 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 30 minutes or until completely cooled.

In medium bowl, combine cup of the margarine or butter, peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar and milk. Beat until smooth. Stir in peanuts. Spread peanut butter mixture over cooled crust.

In small saucepan, combine chocolate chips and remaining cup margarine or butter. Cook over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Cool 10 minutes.

Stir whipping cream into chocolate mixture until well-blended. Spread over peanut butter mixture. Immediately sprinkle miniature M&Ms; over chocolate. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until chocolate is set. Cut into bars. Store in refrigerator. Makes about 36 cookies.

Holiday pinwheel cookies

1 18-ounce tube sugar cookie dough

cup flour

3 tablespoons red sugar

3 tablespoons green sugar

Divide dough in half. Sprinkle cup flour onto work surface. Roll out half of dough to 12-by-7-inch rectangle. Repeat with remaining half of dough and flour. Sprinkle 1 rectangle evenly with red sugar. Sprinkle other rectangle evenly with green sugar.

Starting with short side, roll up each rectangle, jellyroll fashion. Wrap rolls in waxed paper, and refrigerate at least 1 hour for easier handling.

Cut each roll into 16 slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in 350-degree oven for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute, then remove from cookie sheets. Makes about 32 cookies.

Heavenly layered bars

Nonstick cooking spray, butter or margarine

1 18-ounce tube chocolate-chip-cookie dough

cup chocolate cookie crumbs

1 11-ounce package butterscotch chips

1 cups flaked coconut

cup chopped walnuts

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)

Line a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, extending foil over sides of pan. Spray bottom and sides of foil with nonstick cooking spray, or grease foil with butter or margarine. Break up cookie dough into sprayed foil-lined pan. With floured fingers, press dough evenly in bottom of pan to form crust.

Sprinkle cookie crumbs evenly over crust. Top evenly with butterscotch chips, coconut and walnuts. Drizzle sweetened condensed milk over top. Bake in 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until edges are golden. (Center will not be set.) Cool until completely cooled, about 2 hours. Use foil to lift bars from pan. Cut into bars. Makes about 36 cookies.


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