BAKING COOKIES need not cost a king's ransom in time and effort. You can quickly create bite-size treasures with refrigerated or frozen doughs. You can even use equipment such as a food processor to speed preparation, and unless you confess to the deed, no one will be the wiser.
Although the addition of spirits and liqueurs for adults is certainly not mandatory, in some cases it can transform children's fare into a sophisticated adult dessert.
1 20-ounce package refrigerated sugar-cookie dough
1 10-ounce jar apricot preserves
1/4 cup apricot brandy
Cut cookie dough into 8 pieces. Pat each piece into 11-inch-long, narrow strips on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees 10 to 15 minutes, or until brown and crisp.
Combine preserves, brandy and lemon juice to taste. Spread down center of each baked strip. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. While still warm, cut into 1/2-inch diagonal strips with crinkle cutter. Makes 88 cookies.
Note : Cookies will soften after storing.
1 1-pound, 1 1/4-ounce package frozen puff pastry sheets
Thaw puff pastry sheets. Working with 1 sheet at time, open into rectangle. Sprinkle surface with decorator sugar. Using rolling pin, roll sugar into pastry. Fold in both sides of pastry to meet in center.
Sprinkle with more sugar and roll again into pastry. Fold both sides to center again; then fold in half lengthwise (pastry should be about 16 inches long). Wrap in plastic, and chill at least 1 hour.
Cut pastry into 1/4-inch slices. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment. Gently press edges to open and form more rounded shape.
Bake at 425 degrees 5 minutes. Turn, sprinkle with sugar and bake another 3 to 5 minutes or just until golden brown. Makes 125 cookies
Note : Decorator sugar is available at cake-decorating-supply stores.
1 (20-ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough
Cut dough into 20 slices, then cut each slice in half. Press pieces into Madeleine pan with 1 1/2x3-inch depressions.
Bake at 350 degrees 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and cool. Dip tips or drizzle baked cookies with melted chocolate. Makes about 40 cookies.
Knead 1/2 teaspoon orange zest and 1/4 teaspoon orange liqueur into dough. Dip tips or drizzle baked cookies in melted chocolate flavored with orange liqueur.
Knead 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and 6 drops coconut extract into dough. Dip tips of baked cookies in melted white chocolate, then sprinkle with toasted coconut.
Knead 2 tablespoons ground hazelnuts and 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur into dough. Dip tips of baked cookies into melted chocolate, then into ground hazelnuts.
ALMOND NUT CUPS
1 3-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup ground toasted almonds
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon amaretto
Toasted sliced almonds
Beat together cream cheese, 1/2 cup butter, flour, vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Chill mixture about 30 minutes.
Pat about 1 tablespoon mixture into each miniature (1 3/4-inch) muffin tin depression, forming crust. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon ground toasted almonds in bottom of each cup.
Beat egg and combine with brown sugar, dash of salt, melted butter and Amaretto. Spoon or pour filling mixture almost to top of muffin cups. Sprinkle toasted sliced almonds over tops.
Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes. Makes 20 cookies.
Food styled by Stephanie Puddy; photograph styling by Robin Tucker.