Carlo’s Bakery in New York, New York

Dining Outside the Home: Carlo’s Bakery in New York, New York! He’s the Boss, that’s for sure. Luscious cakes, cream-filled cannolis, chewy cookies, and countless culinary creations will have your head swimming from refrigerated display case to bakery case. Customers in line murmur, “I want this. I’ve had that” as their fingers point to the delicious pastries behind the lighted glass. In no time at all, by the time you snake your way up to the energetic staff, you’ll easily walk away clutching fifty dollars worthy of dreamy confections.

Sift Bake Shop in Mystic, Connecticut

Dining Outside the Home: Sift Bake Shop in Mystic, Connecticut. How lucky to discover a celebrity pastry chef, who won the Food Network’s “Best Baker in America” award, owning a bakery in Mystic, Connecticut. Talk about a hidden gem. Adam Young’s French inspired bakery will lure you down to Water Street with its fresh-out-of-the-oven aromas. Follow your nose to be pleasantly surprised by artisanal breads, sold by the whole or half loaf. Croissants might be stuffed with meats, veggies, nuts, or chocolate. Choose wisely. Exquisite cakes and delectable cookies satisfy the sweet tooth cravings now and later in the day. Better get extra. By dilly-dallying around you could find yourself yearning for something another customer already placed in her French market basket.

Java Chip Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Java Chip Cookies! Anyone will tell you the aroma of coffee triggers good feelings. If you don’t believe me, check out the neighborhood coffee shops and you’ll find a local place where people hang out. It’s not just the free Wi-Fi either. Coffee is one of the most popular beverages around, especially now with intense flavorings topped with a mound of whipped cream. Transform the blend of coffee and sugar into a cookie, charged with caffeine, and you’ll be as popular as the Pied Piper. People will follow you anywhere!

JAVA CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3 tablespoons espresso instant coffee

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

3 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup toffee bits

1/4 cup chocolate covered espresso beans, roughly chopped

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. In a food processor beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, espresso instant coffee, and vanilla extract until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until blended. Combine flour, baking soda, and sea salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture until it forms a dough. Fold in toffee bits, chopped espresso beans, and mini chocolate chips. Chill dough slightly. Using a melon ball scoop, drop cookie dough onto a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Do not burn. Remove from oven. Let cool for 2 minutes. Dredge java chip cookies in sugar, if desired, before transferring them to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Yield: 3 dozen, large cookies.

Kolachy Wedding Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Kolachy Wedding Cookies! The beauty of this wedding delicacy, popular in Central Europe, transforms every bite into a puff of pastry. Taste the splendor. Choose one or more of your favorite fruit toppings, sprinkle with a few chocolate morsels, and let the celebration begin! I made mine into Cherry Chocolate Chip Kolachys!

KOLACHY WEDDING COOKIES

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1 8-ounce package Neufchâtel cheese

1 tablespoon milk

1 tablespoon sugar

1 egg yolk, beaten

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 can pie filling, any flavor

1/2 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels

Powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions:

Cream together butter, Neufchâtel cheese, milk, and sugar. Add beaten egg yolk. Sift together flour and baking powder. Add to the creamed mixture and blend well. Refrigerate until the dough is thoroughly chilled (4 hours or overnight). Preheat oven to 400°. Roll out dough to 1/4″ thick on well-floured board. Cut with a 2″ round cookie cutter, or small glass. Place cut-outs on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make a depression with the back of a spoon in the center of each round. Fill the center with a dollop of fruit filling. Sprinkle chocolate morsels on top. Bake 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Xmas Pizzelle Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Xmas Pizzelle Cookies! I’m obsessed with food that has eye appeal. That’s one reason I was drawn to pizzelles, a traditional Italian waffle cookie. I could make you crazy by telling you we’re going to make them from scratch, but hey, my time is in high demand just like yours. Besides, since I don’t own a pizzelle iron, sometimes it’s better to leave things to an expert. I’m here today to save you time when someone suggests a Holiday Cookie Exchange. Pick up a package of Classic Italian Pizzelles on your way home from work, dip the cookies in melted chocolate, and sprinkle with nuts. You can thank me later when you’re sitting back relaxing with a glass of wine.

XMAS PIZZELLE COOKIES

Ingredients:

7-ounce package Vanilla Flavored Pizzelle Cookies

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 ounces pistachios, chopped

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine semisweet chocolate chips and vegetable oil. Heat in microwave on 50% setting for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat in 30-second intervals until melted. Stir until smooth. Dip half of each pizzelle cookie into melted chocolate. Sprinkle both sides with chopped pistachios. Place on baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.

Mincemeat Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Mincemeat Cookies! When my friend, Ray, “gifted” me with a batch of his time-honored traditional homemade mincemeat, I felt as though I had received a portion of the Holy Grail. Could this secret from the past hold special powers? Would one bite provide happiness, eternal youth, and food in infinite abundance? You tell me. Ray carefully coached me on how to “season” the mixture by adding flavored brandy (I chose apricot) over a three-week period, stirring it occasionally in a covered clay crock. I was an awestruck student following his instructions to the letter. The results were phenomenal and elegant. Don’t let anyone tell you mincemeat is awful. When prepared correctly, some things are worth the wait.

MINCEMEAT COOKIES

Ingredients for Cookies:

2/3 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

1 cup mincemeat*

2 cups flour

1 cup pecans, chopped

Pecan halves for garnish

Ingredients for Icing:

3 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon apricot brandy

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoons warm milk, as needed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add eggs and mincemeat. Gradually stir in the flour. Fold in chopped pecans. Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until tops of cookies are dry and set. Bottoms will be slightly golden. Remove from oven. Transfer to a wired rack. Frost while slightly warm. Top each cookie with a pecan half before frosting sets.

Instructions for Icing:

In a medium bowl gently mix powdered sugar and butter until smooth. Add brandy and vanilla. Stir well. As needed, add warm milk to create a thick consistency. Place a dollop of icing on each cookie. Garnish with pecan half.

*The “Elegant Homemade Mincemeat” recipe can be found in the 1972 Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, page 371.

Rum Raisin Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Rum Raisin Cookies! Before you turn the page, let me clarify…you can choose to omit the rum in this recipe and substitute with water and opt for rum extract instead. Either way, if you’re a raisin-lover, this version puts the “plump” in raisin to make them moist and chewy. In the time it takes to preheat the oven and assemble the remaining ingredients, the raisins are ready to use. Trust me, everyone will thank you!

RUM RAISIN COOKIES

Ingredients:

2 cups raisins

1 cup dark rum

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup butter, softened

1 3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup almonds, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, combine raisins and rum. Bring to a boil; boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the alcohol has evaporated. Set aside; do not drain. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. Cream butter. Gradually add sugar, mixing until creamy. Add the slightly beaten eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Gradually add the flour mixture, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl. Mix thoroughly before folding in the raisins and chopped almonds. Drop with a tablespoon 2″ apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake 12-13 minutes. Cool on wired rack.

Bourbon Balls

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Bourbon Balls! Remember the scene from “The Grinch Stole Christmas” where the adults in Whoville are throwing a key party? Well, I’m convinced they may have been nibbling on holiday Bourbon Balls based on the way they were flirting and having a crazy-fun time. Be forewarned. This recipe does contain chocolate and alcohol. You may want to mention it.

BOURBON BALLS

Ingredients:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

3 tablespoons corn syrup

1/2 cup bourbon

2 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Granulated sugar

Instructions:

Pulse vanilla wafers in a food processor to make crumbs. Set aside. Over hot (not boiling) water, melt chocolate morsels; remove from heat. Blend in corn syrup and bourbon. In a large bowl, combine vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar, and nuts. Add chocolate mixture. Blend well. Chill 30 minutes. Using a melon ball utensil, scoop dough into 1″ balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Store in covered container for several days to season flavor.

Your Grandma’s Molasses Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Your Grandma’s Molasses Cookies! For years I was on a quest to bake soft, chewy cookies. No matter what I did, it seemed as soon as the cookies cooled, they turned crunchy rather than chewy. Don’t get me wrong, they still disappeared in my house because…well, kids seem to love homemade cookies no matter how they turn out. Then, the other day I was rifling through a stack of recipes scribbled on random slips of paper tucked away in a ziplock bag. I came across the familiar handwriting of my beloved Grandma Frieda. I remembered visiting her in the summertime when she’d bring out the Game of Cootie for us to play. Afterwards, she serve a plate of sugary molasses cookies with a glass of milk. Those are good memories, that’s for sure.

YOUR GRANDMA’S MOLASSES COOKIES

Ingredients:

4 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground 

1 teaspoon cloves, ground 

1 teaspoon ginger, ground 

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups butter, softened 

2 cups sugar plus 1/2 cup

1/2 cup molasses 

2 eggs

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line baking sheet with a silicone baking mat and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and 2 cups sugar until combined. Add in the molasses and eggs and mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture to the ingredients of the stand mixer and mix until all is combined. Fill a small bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Form teaspoon-size dough into balls then gently roll them in the granulated sugar. Place onto baking sheet, two inches apart. Repeat until all the cookie dough has been used. Bake only 10 minutes for soft and chewy results. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.