Friday, 9 December 2011

Bake Something Great!

Bake Something Great!
400 Bars, Squares and Cookies
by Jill Snider
Spiral-bound, 480 pages

It's that time of year - people are baking up a storm! Something about the shorter days, the colder weather, the darker mornings and evenings (heck, afternoons!), and the myriad winter holiday festivities wakes up our sweet tooth.

This is a time of baking to share. With your family, neighbours, office mates and other friends. And two-bite bars and cookies are the perfect confections for sharing.

Bake Something Great! has 400 bars, squares, and cookies that you can whip up in your own kitchen to bring a smile to the ones you care about.

It has a hard cover and a spiral binding, so it lies flat for you while you bake. Perfect! 

Part One is all about Bars and Squares and the chapters include:

* Chocolate Bars and Squares * Fruit Bars and Squares * Nut Bars and Squares * Shortbread * No-Bake Bars and Squares * Good for You, Too * Not Just for Kids * Cake Mix Bars and Squares *

Part Two is all about Cookies and the chapters include:

* Drop Cookies * Refrigerator Cookies * Pressed, Cutout, and Sandwich Cookies * Shaped Cookies and Biscotti * Chocolate Cookies * Shortbread and Holiday Cookies * Good for You, Too * Not Just for Kids * Cake Mix Cookies *

We whipped up the Fabulous Fig Bars from the Good for You, Too chapter in the bars section. They are just like Fig Newtons, only better for being homemade and figgier! Try them yourself this weekend. ☺

Fabulous Fig Bars 
(pg 200) ~ Good For You, Too

These bars are a childhood favorite. I'm not sure whether I love making these for the taste of the moist fig filling in the buttery crust or just for the memories.

MAKES 18 TO 48 BARS, (see Cutting Guide, page 10)
•    Preparation: 35 minutes
•    Cooking: 25 minutes
•    Cooling: 30 minutes
•    Baking: 35 minutes
•    Freezing: excellent
•    Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
•    8-inch (2 L) square cake pan, greased

8 oz    dried figs, chopped    250 g
1 cup    water    250 mL
1 tbsp    freshly squeezed lemon juice    15 mL

3⁄4 cup    unbleached all-purpose flour    175 mL
1⁄2 cup    whole wheat flour    125 mL
3⁄4 tsp    baking powder    3 mL
3⁄4 tsp    ground cinnamon    3 mL
Pinch    salt    Pinch
1⁄4 cup    butter, softened    60 mL
1⁄2 cup    granulated sugar    125 mL
1    egg    1

1.    Filling: In a saucepan, combine figs, water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until water is absorbed and figs are tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool to lukewarm. Transfer to a food processor and purée. Set aside until cool, about 30 minutes.
2.    Crust: Combine all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar and egg until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, gradually add dry ingredients, mixing just until dough comes together. Using floured hands, knead dough to form a smooth ball. Divide in half.
3.    Between 2 sheets of waxed paper, roll out one half of the dough to an 8-inch (20 cm) square. Remove top sheet of waxed paper and transfer dough upside down into prepared pan. Remove second sheet of waxed paper. Spread cooled fig filling evenly over dough. Repeat rolling with other half of dough. Trim edges to make an even square. Place over filling.
4.    Bake in preheated oven until crust is golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack. Cut into bars.

I like to use a combination of Calimyrna (golden) and Mission (black) figs in this recipe.
If your dough seems soft after mixing, chill for 30 to 60 minutes. It will roll out much more easily.
Don't worry if the dough tears when you transfer it to the pan. You can patch any tears by pressing it together with your fingertips. The bottom crust can extend a bit up the side before filling. The top crust is trimmed to fit over it.
This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 13- by 9-inch (3 L) pan.

And, to kick off your holiday baking, 
try these delicious recipes!

White Chocolate Cranberry Hazelnut Brownies 
(pg 38) ~ Brownies

I'm sure this creamy white chocolate brownie, loaded with hazelnuts and cranberries, will become one of your favorites.

(see Cutting Guide, page 10)
•    Preparation: 20 minutes
•    Baking: 30 minutes
•    Freezing: excellent
•    Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
•    8-inch (2 L) square cake pan, greased

6    squares (1 oz/28 g each)     6
    white chocolate, chopped
3⁄4 cup    granulated sugar    175 mL
2    eggs    2
1⁄3 cup    butter, melted    75 mL
1 tsp    vanilla    5 mL
11⁄4 cups    all-purpose flour    300 mL
3⁄4 tsp    baking powder    3 mL
3⁄4 cup    coarsely chopped hazelnuts    175 mL
1⁄3 cup    dried cranberries    75 mL

1.    In a small saucepan over low heat, melt white chocolate, stirring constantly, until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
2.    In a bowl, whisk sugar and eggs until blended. Whisk in melted butter and vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder. Stir into egg mixture alternately with melted chocolate, making 2 additions of each and mixing until smooth. Stir in hazelnuts and cranberries. Spread evenly in prepared pan.
3.    Bake in preheated oven just until set and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack. Cut into bars or squares.

These make a nice holiday gift. Pack them in a decorative airtight cookie tin or box, tie with a festive ribbon and add the recipe with your gift tag.
If you can find orange-flavored dried cranberries, try them in this recipe. They taste particularly delicious in this brownie.

Candy-Cane Twists 
(pg 412) ~ Shortbread & Holiday Cookies (kids love making!)

Kids will enjoy making these cookies and leaving them for Santa as much as Santa will enjoy receiving them.

•    Preparation: 25 minutes
•    Baking: 11 minutes
•    Freezing: excellent
•    Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
•    Cookie sheet, ungreased

2½ cups    all-purpose flour    625 mL
1 tsp    baking powder    5 mL
1 cup    butter, softened    250 mL
¾ cup    granulated sugar    175 mL
1    egg    1
½ tsp    peppermint extract    2 mL
½ tsp    red food coloring    2 mL
¼ cup    crushed red and white peppermints     60 mL
    or candy canes, optional

1.    On a sheet of waxed paper or in a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Set aside.
2.    In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, egg and peppermint extract until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended. Divide dough into halves. Add food coloring to 1 portion and, using your hands, knead until thoroughly mixed in. If using, knead crushed candies into other portion.
3.    For each candy cane, roll 1 tsp (5 mL) of each kind of dough into a rope 5 inches (12.5 cm) long. Place 2 ropes side by side and twist together, then gently roll to meld. Place about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on cookie sheet. Curve one end to form handle of cane. Bake in preheated oven for 7 to 11 minutes or until light golden around edges. Cool for 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer to a rack and cool completely.


If you like peppermint, increase the extract to ¾ tsp (3 mL).

Use green food coloring, mints or candy canes that have green stripes on them.

All recipes~ Excerpted from Bake Something Great! 400 Bars, Squares & Cookies by Jill Snider © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.