During the holidays there's often a need for a quick dessert. If that dessert looks deceivingly time-consuming, so much the better. Such is the case with microwave cookies. Even the longest cooking varieties take a mere 10 minutes or so, and most take even less.
Before microwaving cookies, be aware of the general types that readily adapt. One of the best cookies for microwaving is a batter bar such as brownies. They are rich and tend to absorb microwave energy evenly.
Another bar cookie--the layered type with a shortbread base--might need some adaptation for the microwave because shortbread has a tendency to become dry. Sometimes precooking the shortbread in the microwave before adding the filling can help. Another solution is to substitute a layer of graham crackers or plain pre-baked or purchased square cookies fit together snugly for the pastry base. Or substitute cracker or cookie crumbs, blended with butter and brown sugar and patted into the pan. Yet another solution is to use a rich-tasting streusel mixture like the one for the raspberry cookie bars that follow.
A common problem with microwaved bar cookies is that some areas bake faster than others. This can be helped by a few tips:
--If the bottoms of the cookies are consistently undercooked, place the dish in the oven on a trivet bacon rack or overturned microwave-safe saucer. Raising the dish helps microwave energy to bounce from the bottom of the oven to the underside of the batter. A glass dish allows you to see the underside.
--If tops are underdone, cover cookies lightly with wax paper for the first few minutes, then remove to finish cooking.
--If parts of the cookies are cooking faster than other parts, reduce oven power from HIGH (100%) to MEDIUM-HIGH (70%) and increase the time. This has the same effect as reducing the temperature in a conventional oven--the food cooks more slowly so more time is needed for heat conduction.
--If the corners of a square dish are always overcooked, switch to a round dish.
Individual molded cookies also microwave well. Arrange molded cookies on a large microwave baking sheet. If you don't have a baking sheet, make one from a square of heavy cardboard, covered with wax paper. It can be cut to precisely fit your oven.
Here are some other tips for microwaving molded cookies:
--If you need dozens of cookies, use a conventional oven. The microwave only makes up to a dozen at a time.
--Be sure to mold the dough smooth. Because of the rapid expansion of the dough, small cracks can turn into big cracks during cooking.
--When done, cookies will look dry. After partial cooking time is up, you can remove the done cookies from the sheet before continuing to cook the other cookies that are still glossy and raw looking. Unlike conventional baking, cookies don't burn on the top or bottom--they burn in the middle, sometimes only on the underside.
--For even cooking, make all balls the same size, preferably about an inch in diameter.
--When softening butter for molded cookies, don't try to rush it with HIGH power. For most control, set the power level on LOW (about 30%). It may take two to three minutes to soften the butter, but you'll get a much creamier butter-sugar mixture.
RASPBERRY STREUSEL BARS
3/4 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 (12-ounce) jar raspberry jam
Place butter in 8-inch square microwave-safe dish. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 1 to 2 minutes until melted. Stir in brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, oats and pecans. Stir to blend well.
Remove about half of crumbs and set aside. Press remaining crumbs evenly over bottom of dish. Spread crumbs in dish with jam, then sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Microwave on HIGH 7 to 10 minutes, rotating dish turn after 4 minutes. When done, bars will be soft but appear set at edges. Top layer will look dry. Cool completely, then cut into bars. Makes about 30 bars.