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Season's Eatings

Red Star Shortbreads

For batter:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla

For glaze:
1 Tbs water
½ cup sifted confectioners' sugar
One 7½ oz jar red crystal sugar

These sparkling gems will also make beautiful ornaments. Poke a hole near the top before baking.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, have child mix flour, cornstarch, and salt with spatula or whisk.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Mix in the vanilla. Child stirs the flour mixture into the butter mixture with a wooden spoon until just combined.
3. On floured board, help your kid roll the dough to ¼-inch thickness with a floured rolling pin. Youngster cuts dough with star-shaped cutters and places the cookies on ungreased baking sheets.
4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. Let stand on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.
5. To make the glaze, child stirs the water into the confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl. To decorate the cookies, kid dips just their edges first in the glaze, then in the red sugar, or he paints the starry goodies with a small paintbrush coated with glaze and dips them in the sugar.

Yield: Makes about 48 two-inch cookies.

Pepperminty Chocolate Bark

3 oz peppermint candy canes or red-and-white-swirled peppermint candy
½ lb white chocolate (not chips), finely chopped into ¼-inch pieces

1. Measure and cut a piece of parchment or wax paper large enough to line a baking sheet. On the paper's underside, child uses a ruler to draw a 7- by 10-inch rectangle with a pencil. On each corner, have her dab a bit of butter (which works as glue), and flip the paper over. Help her press the corners onto the baking sheet. Set aside.
2. Kid puts the mint candy in a zip-lock plastic bag. Supervise as she smashes candy into bits with a meat pounder or hammer. Don't let her pulverize the candy; you want chunks, not powder. Discard any powder, and pour pieces into a 1-cup measure.
3. Put chocolate in a 2-cup glass measure, and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Supervise as child stirs it with a spatula. Microwave for 30 seconds longer and stir again. Microwave for 30 seconds more, stopping to stir chocolate every 5 seconds, till melted. Child spreads chocolate on parchment-lined sheet, filling in the rectangular outline, till smooth, then sprinkles on the candy crumbs. Let harden at room temperature for 6 hours. (If kitchen is hot, chill till solid.) Help your kid break bark into rough pieces, about 3 square inches each. Refrigerate till serving.

Yield: Makes 3/4 of a pound of bark.

Sweet Snowdrops

For batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract

For icing:
½ cup white chocolate chips
2 Tbs solid vegetable shortening
1 7½-oz jar white crystal sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place two racks in the oven so they evenly split the space into thirds and can accommodate 2 cookie sheets at once. With a wire whisk, child mixes the flour, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, have her whisk the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Pour in the flour mix; let her whisk till just blended.
2. Your kid can drop teaspoonfuls of dough about 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. She then shapes them into circles by pressing down lightly on them with her fingertips. Bake for 20 minutes or till cookies are brown and crisp all over. Transfer cookies to a rack.
3. After cookies are cool, make the icing. Place the chips and the shortening in a 2-cup glass measure. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir well. Microwave for 5 to 30 seconds more, stirring every 10 seconds, till mix is very smooth. Child spreads the icing with a paintbrush or small spatula, covering the cookie tops. Place some of the crystal sugar in a small bowl, and dip the tops of the just-iced cookies in. Let stand till dry.

Yield: Makes about 46 cookies.

Coconut Blizzard Cupcakes

For batter:
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
½ cup milk
1 large egg
½ cup sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
10 tsp seedless raspberry jam

For icing:
4 Tbs (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
3 Tbs heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, child mixes butter, milk, egg, sugar, and extracts with a whisk. In another bowl, he stirs the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Kid then whisks the flour mixture into the butter mix, stirring till smooth.
2. With a small measuring cup, 1/3 cup size will do), child scoops up and divides the batter among 10 paper-lined, 2½- or 3-inch muffin cups, filling each 2/3 of the way. Let him drop a teaspoonful of jam in the center of each cupcake. (The jam sinks in as cupcakes bake.) Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the cake part comes out dry. Let cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool.
3. To make icing, supervise as your kid beats the butter till fluffy with an electric mixer in a medium bowl. Have him beat in the sugar a little at a time, alternating with the cream, then have him add the vanilla and salt. Child spreads this mix on top of the cupcakes with a small spatula or butter knife. Place the coconut in a bowl, and let your kid dip the cupcake tops in, covering the frosting. He then places them on a platter. Refrigerate till serving time.

Yield: Makes 10 cupcakes.

Photos: Jim Franco