From gingerbread elves to crunchy biscotti and toffee bars, there’s no doubt that cookies make holidays merrier. It’s not just the sweet, chocolaty goodness of it all. What makes cookies such an integral part of the holidays, says Berkeley’s doyenne of sweets, Alice Medrich, is the whole process — the sifting, the rolling, the aromas and the sense of warm, familial togetherness.
“It’s something that women and children have always done together in the kitchen,” she says in this week’s food section. “It’s a wonderful tradition.”
Read more about Alice and holiday cookies here. Then dip into her wonderful recipes, including these Toffee Bars from her book “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies,” (Workman Publishing, 384 pp., $25.95).
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups pecan halves
1 tablespoon water
¾ cup packed brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 chunks
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9- by 13-inch pan with foil, leaving an overhang.
2. For the crust, melt the butter over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in sugar, vanilla and salt. Add flour and mix just until incorporated.
3. Press dough evenly into pan. Scatter pecans loosely over the dough. Cover nuts with a loose piece of foil so they toast without burning. Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned at the edges.
4. Meanwhile, combine water and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Whisk in butter.
5. Remove foil from pecans. Pour caramel topping over the crust. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until dark and bubbling vigorously. Scatter chocolate over the top. (Or, melt and drizzle the chocolate decoratively over the bars after they’ve cooled.) Cool bars in pan. Then transfer to a board for cutting.
— Courtesy Alice Medrich, “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies,” (Workman Publishing, 384 pp., $25.95)