Cookies While You Sleep

As promised, more holiday cookies.  The first one, curiously called "Cookies While You Sleep," lets the nighttime do its magic.  Put glossy heaps of wet meringue into the oven before bedtime and in the morning you will wake up to dreamy crisp meringues.  The ultra-white mounds crackle in your mouth and then melt like snow.  Made with egg whites (save the yolks for another style of cookie), sugar, and miniature chocolate chips, these are truly child's play with fun visual cues along the way. Visual cue #1 -- the egg whites (beaten with a bit of salt) are whipped until they hold their shape and get stiff and glossy.  Visual cue #2:  It should look like Marshmallow Fluff.  Mounded onto parchment-lined baking sheets, put them in a hot oven and then immediately turn the!   Go to bed. In the morning, eat one or two of these cookies and begin the next recipe:  Nutella Sandwich Cookies.  The ubiquitous chocolate-hazelnut spread (that comes in a jar) flavors both the batter and serves as the filling for the sandwich.  This is a four-ingredient cookie that makes milk an imperative.  Have a little patience when cutting the warm cookies in half, sandwich-style, through the equator.  Use a large serrated knife and go slow. These cookies taste even better the next day (if they last that long)...and the the cookie "crumb" (the texture) softens.

And here's a crazy idea I invented using frozen wonton skins.  Not sure what possessed me to slather them with melted butter and shower them with cinnamon-sugar. Baked for 7 minutes, they become crisp and tasty as can be and serve a variety of purposes.  They are great as is, served with a cup of green tea.  They are wonderful for dipping into a pint of slightly melted ice cream.  Stacked with layers of ripe fresh fruit and honey, they become trendy "napoleons."  Most fun of all is to have your guests guess how they're made.  No one ever does.  Most surprising of all is...they're healthy!  Only 33 calories per cookie.  And you can make them with olive oil instead of butter.  They last a long time and look really cool in a glassine bag tied up with holiday ribbons.

'Tis the season.

Cookies While You Sleep (from Kids Cook 1-2-3) 3 extra-large egg whites 7/8 cup sugar 1 heaping cup miniature chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until they begin to thicken.  Add a pinch of salt and gradually add the sugar. Beat for several minutes, until the mixture holds its shape and is stiff and glossy.  Continue beating several minutes until it is very thick.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment.  Gently fold the chocolate chips into the batter.  Drop by the tablespoonful onto the baking sheets.  Place in the oven on the middle rack and close the door. Immediately turn the oven off.  Leave the door closed until morning.  Makes about 28

Nutella Sandwich Cookies 13-ounce jar Nutella 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature 1 extra-large egg 1-1/4 cups self-rising cake flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.  Beat together 1/4 cup of the Nutella, the butter, and egg.  Slowly add the flour until a wet dough forms.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently, adding more flour if necessary; the dough will be sticky.  Divide the dough into 18 pieces and roll each into a perfect ball, flouring your hands as you go.  Place several inches apart on the baking sheet.  Bake 12 minutes until firm.  Cool 10 minutes on the sheet.  Using a serrated knife, split each cookie in half horizontally.  Spread each bottom half with 1 heaping teaspoon of Nutella.  Replace the tops, pressing lightly.  Makes 18

Cinnamon-Sugar Crisps You can keep these super simple by brushing them with melted butter and sprinkling them with cinnamon-sugar.  I have deepened their flavor with some five-spice powder and sesame seeds.  You can find wonton wrappers in Asian food markets; they are generally frozen.

1/4 cup sugar 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder 24 square wonton wrappers 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1/3 cup sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, and five-spice powder.  Place 12 wontons on each of 2 ungreased baking sheets. Using a pastry brush, brush each with melted butter.  Sprinkle heavily with the sugar mixture and then with the sesame seeds.  Press the seeds in lightly.  Bake for 7 minutes until golden and crispy; cool.  Makes 24

Radically Simple Holiday Cookies

For the first time in 20 years, I had saltines in the house (the ones in that big green tin) and made the Saltine Cracker Brickle from this week's food section of the New York Times (12/15).  Not bad, actually.  Part cookie, part candy, it was made from just a handful of ingredients.  Such is the magic of butter, sugar and chocolate.  The paucity of ingredients had me thinking about the cookies and confections I've created during the past two (saltine-free) decades!   Some people are grateful for the three-ingredient gluten-free cookies I invented using roasted chickpea flour; beg for the little sandwich cookies made with Nutella; crave the simplicity of cinnamon crisps made, unexpectedly, from wonton wrappers; are intrigued by the cookies made from halvah, and charmed by the notion of "Cookies While You Sleep"-- crisp meringues that look like small snowdrifts.   These are little gifts from "me to you," so that they can be "from you to yours."   Maybe it's time to buy a nice big cookie jar.  (The big green Saltine tin would also work!)  Here are two favorites, but stay tuned for more!

Chickpea Flour Shortbread I first became familiar with chickpea flour in the south of France where I attended a cooking school run by Roger Verge.  It is the essential ingredient used for making socca, an indigenous pizza-like snack, thin and pliable, and blackened from wood-fired ovens.  This flour is also used for making fournade, a simple soup from Burgundy, and for panelle, little chickpea flour pancakes, familiar in the south of Italy.  I became so enamored with the stuff that I started experimenting and created this addictive little cookie, perfect for gluten-free diets.  Roasted chickpea flour can be found in Middle Eastern food markets and health food stores.  Plain (unroasted) can also be used. Instead of sprinkling them with powdered sugar at the end, you can dust them with multi-colored granulated sugar for a "holiday look."

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar 2 cups roasted chickpea flour, plus more for dusting

Beat butter in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add 1 cup confectioners' sugar and pinch of salt.  Mix well.  Stir in chickpea flour and mix until dough forms a smooth ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Sprinkle pastry board lightly with chickpea flour. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick.  Using a cookie cutter, cut out into desired shapes (I use a fluted cookie cutter), about 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Squares are also nice.  Prick each several times with a fork.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 25 minutes until golden and just firm.  Let cool.  Sprinkle generously with remaining sugar pushed through a sieve. Makes about 36 cookies Sesame Seed-Olive Oil Cookies (from Radically Simple) These taste like cookies you might expect to find at an old-world Italian pastry shop.  The olive oil gives them an interesting texture and flavor.

2 cups self-rising flour 2/3 cup sugar 2 extra-large eggs 1/2 cup olive oil 2 teaspoons almond extract 2/3 cup toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment.  Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and extract.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms; it will be crumbly and slightly oily.  Form the dough into small ovals, about 1-1/2 inches long and 3/4 inch wide.  Roll the top and sides of each cookie in the sesame seeds.  Place 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.  Bake 25 minutes, until golden and just firm.  Cool  Makes 24