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Nutty, rich, small — yup, that’s a “delectabite.” These walnut cookies are related to Mexican wedding cakes (often made with pecans) but these are smaller and, well, made with walnuts. They were part of the panoply of Grammy’s Christmas desserts, but fell behind Almond Crescents in the race for tin-space. I don’t actually remember eating them at the holidays.

Delectabites from Baking Family copyright Garside Group LLC

I do, however, like these. They are smaller than other nut cookies. They really are bites. And the hit of vanilla transforms them.

Because these are nothing but nuts, butter and vanilla, here more than ever you have to use the good stuff. Fresh nuts and butter, and real vanilla. Don’t stint. It may also be worth your while to get out the Cuisinart to get the nuts fine enough — depends on how game you are for chopping therapy. If you use the Cuisinart, pulse to chop so you don’t end up with walnut paste.

I could see serving these cookies perched on the edge of a dessert plate laden with fresh fruit of some sort. Or sending a tin of cookies off to the spring bake sale, sure in the knowledge that these cookies will yield both cash for the school and happy customers.

Delectabites from Baking Family and Garside Group LLC

Delectabites

Makes 50 cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • Confectioners’ sugar

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla. Gradually add flour and walnuts; mix well. Cover bowl and chill dough for at least 30 minutes and up to a day.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove bowl from refrigerator about 15 minutes before you’re ready to work the dough. Pinch off pieces the size of large marbles and roll into balls. Bake cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet until firm but not too brown, about 15 to 17 minutes. Remove pan from oven, transfer cookies to a rack and cool briefly. Put confectioners’ sugar in a small,wide-mouth bowl. Roll each cookie gently in the sugar; when thoroughly cool, roll cookies in sugar again.

(Note: You can skip the first rolling in sugar, but I kind of like the sweet crust that forms. There is very little sugar actually in the dough.)

Photos and recipe copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC.

Having coffee with a pal the other day, and she started to talk about baking with her little girls. “Do my cookie sheets have to be flat?,” she asked, “What if they have sides?” There was a distinct wrinkle to her brow.

There are many people who have strong opinions about cookie sheets — they must be nonstick, they must never be nonstick, dark is good, dark is bad — and there are indeed some core nuggets that will make your cookie-baking easier. So read on, but keep in mind this fact: If it’s got a flat part and fits in your oven, you’ll probably be able to bake cookies on it. Everything beyond that is fiddling at the top of the charts.

  • My favorite cookie sheet is big, heavy, medium-shiny and has a little rise that creates a handle on each short end — kind of like this one. It’s made of really heavy-duty aluminum, and it is NOT coated with a non-stick finish. Parchment paper is my friend, and I always have a large roll of Reynolds parchment (available at your average grocery store). I like it because it’s just a tiny bit wider than this favorite pan, so zwwwwwippp and I have the pan covered and ready to go.
  • If what you have are dark cookie sheets, use parchment on them as well, and watch carefully — you may have to reduce oven temp by 25 degrees or shorten cooking time to make sure the bottom of the cookies doesn’t get too done. The parchment may not help much to reduce the extra heat off the dark pans, but it DOES make it easier to see through the oven window how fast your cookies are browning on the bottom.
  • If what you have are pans with higher sides — two inches or so — you’ll find that the sides of the pans create hot spots, so that cookies get extra-done on the edges closest to those high sides. You can use these in a pinch, but consider turning them over and using the bottoms instead. Just handle with extreme care so that your parchment does not slide off.
  • The lighter-weight a cookie sheet is, the more likely it is to have hot spots or to flex in the oven. That said, I happily baked many batches of Toll House cookies on a medium-weight aluminum pan with slightly raised edges all around and a dark taupe nonstick coating. What was that I was saying about cookie-sheet rules?
  • Glass is just not great for cookies. If that’s really all you’ve got I’d spring for two metal cookie sheets.

If you’re here in Washington D.C., you’ve got several buying options — Hill’s Kitchen has good sheets, as do local branches of Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma. And if you’re headed out to a hardware store instead of a kitchen-specialty place, you know I’ll send you to the best hardware stores around: Logan Hardware and its sister stores — they carry the Baker’s Secret and Airbake Ultra lines – and Strosnider’s in Bethesda. You’ll find pans, and probably fill in on some missing gift-list items too!

Got a question from “a needy baker in Albany.” (This is NOT how I would characterize her — this woman is a baking machine.) She’s got a classic holiday-party dilemma, though:

I am having 75 people for a cocktail party this Saturday night (12/12). We are having some of it catered but I want to make holiday cookies that are easy (fast) and elegant. I have already made mint brownies, chocolate chip bars, cranberry orange bread and lemon blueberry bread – all are frozen in prep for Saturday. Any other suggestions?

See what I mean by “baking machine”? She’s got three key elements covered — chocolate, mint and orange — and there are great colors and shapes on that dessert table. I have two immediate recommendations from right here: Butterscotch Creoles and Almond Flats. Both fit the bill in a couple of ways: They add a new note to the table — nuts — and are elegant and fast (not tons of things to put together or ice). The added benefit of Butterscotch Creoles is the recipe makes a ton, eight to nine dozen cookies.

A couple of other ideas:

Ginger-ginger petticoat tails, from today’s Washington Post — who does NOT love shortbread, and this is the time of year to eat it.

Coconut macaroons, from Brown Eyed Baker’s blog — because they are elegant and easier than all get-out. I’d bag the chocolate-dipping for your table.

Good luck — tell what you made!

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