The Herald Bulletin

November 26, 2013

Fruity inspirations

Holiday cookies combine fruit and festive flavors

By Alison Ladman
The Associated Press

---- — HONEYED APRICOT TASSIES

These tiny tarts — named for the small cup or goblet they resemble — could be filled with any chopped dried fruit, but we loved the idea of beautiful golden apricots spiked with honey and amaretto. But feel free to substitute an equal amount of another dried fruit. Golden raisins, dried figs, dried cherries, or even dried cranberries would all be delicious.

Though technically a tart, tassies are small enough to serve as a cookie. And the rich cream cheese-based pastry used for the crust may remind you of Jewish rugelach.

HONEYED APRICOT TASSIES

The only special equipment needed for this recipe is a mini muffin pan. And to make your holiday baking easier, both the filling and dough can be prepped ahead of time.

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)

Makes 18 tassies

1 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup honey

2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the apricots, water and honey. Cook, stirring frequently, until thick and jammy, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the amaretto. Allow to cool completely. If desired, the filling can be prepared up to a week in advance, then covered and refrigerated.

While the apricots cook, make the pastry. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, butter, flour and salt. Pulse just until the dough comes together. Divide the dough in 2 pieces and pat each into a round about 1/2 inch thick. Cover each round tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerator for 30 minutes, or up to 2 days in advance.

When ready to make the tassies, heat the oven to 400 F. Lightly dust a counter and rolling pin with flour.

Working with one round of dough at a time, roll each until 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut 9 rounds of dough from each piece of dough. Fit each piece into a mini muffin cup. Depending on the number of cups in your mini muffin pan, you may need to work in batches.

Fill each cup with 1 tablespoon of the apricot filling. Cut miniature shapes out of the scraps of dough and top the filling in each cup as garnish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the dough is light golden brown. Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Nutrition information per cookie: 150 calories; 60 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 2 g protein; 75 mg sodium.

NO-BAKE CRANBERRY COCONUT BITES

For anyone who loves macaroon's, these chewy, cranberry-speckled no-bake cookies should help you satisfy your coconut cravings.

Feel free to decorate these cookies however you like. We prefer to roll them in yet more shredded coconut (toasted is a nice touch), but you also could roll them in chopped pistachios, peanuts, hazelnuts, even pine nuts would be delicious. Or for a sweeter version, get colored decorating sugar from the baking supply shop and roll them in that.

NO-BAKE CRANBERRY COCONUT BITES

Start to finish: 1 hour (20 minutes active)

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

4 cups shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Pinch salt

1 cup chopped dried cranberries

1 cup toasted shredded coconut, finely chopped nuts or colored sugar

In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the sweetened condensed milk, 4 cups of shredded coconut, the water, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until it forms a thick paste, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the cranberries, then set aside off the heat and allow to cool completely.

Once the mixture has cooled, set out a bowl of toasted coconut, finely chopped nuts or colored sugar. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls, then roll each ball in the coating of your choice. The cookies should be stored in an airtight container between layers of kitchen parchment or waxed paper.

Nutrition information per cookie: 110 calories; 60 calories from fat (55 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 1 g protein; 15 mg sodium.

APPLE-ORANGE SPICE DROPS

These drop cookies may be fast and easy to make, but they deliver big, bold flavor just right for the holidays.

We take a basic brown sugar and butter-based drop cookie dough, then add tons of deliciousness with a blend of cloves, allspice, nutmeg and orange zest. We also tinker with the texture, adding the delightful chew of tender dried apples. Top it all off with an orange glaze and you have a cookie that begs for an eggnog accompaniment.

APPLE-ORANGE SPICE DROPS

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Makes 4 dozen cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 egg

Zest of 1 orange

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups chopped dried apple

3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional)

For the glaze:

1 tablespoon orange juice

2/3 cup powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, brown sugar, almond extract, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt, cloves, allspice and nutmeg until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Stir in the orange zest and orange juice, then the flour. Stir in the apples and the almonds, if using.

Working in batches, scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just pale golden brown on the bottoms. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a rack to cool completely. Allow the baking sheet to cool slightly between batches.

To make the glaze, whisk together the orange juice and powdered sugar. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over each cookie. Once the glaze sets, store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Nutrition information per cookie: 70 calories; 20 calories from fat (29 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 1 g protein; 40 mg sodium.