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By Gini Rainey

Just when you thought I’d fallen off the face of the earth – BAM – here I am again!  Today is an absolutely beautiful day in East Texas with clear blue skies, temps in the upper 60s, and a hint of fall in the air.  It’s difficult to appreciate the changing of seasons in these parts because it’s kind of like one season slides right into another with no definite demarcation.  But I know one thing for sure:  Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, so it’s time to think about some serious cooking and baking. 

When our daughters were little, my husband and I made a conscientious decision that I would be a stay-at-home mom, at least until the girls were of an age when they could responsibly stay by themselves after school and in the summer.  One of the things that I wanted to be sure would happen was when they came home from school, the house was filled with the smell of freshly baked cookies or cake. The cookies generally were chocolate chip and the cake, chocolate. 

I guess you could say I was an old-school mom – sort of like June Cleaver but without the pearls and shirt-waist dresses.  Family time has always been important to me and I really like it when the kitchen is the center of a lot of the activity.  Now that our family is kind of spread out, holidays become even more precious when we can gather together and I know the girls and their families appreciate a bunch of different cookies and treats when they visit.  The holidays pretty much demand a ramping up of the usual fare. 

A really great cookbook for, you guessed it, cookie-ramping is The Great Minnesota Cookie Book by Lee Svitak Dean and Rick Nelson. Filled with yummy-sounding recipes and wonderful color photographs by Tom Wallace, this book, published in 2018 by the University of Minnesota Press, is a veritable compendium of award–winning recipes from the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Holiday Cookie Contest. Besides being a beautiful book, it can open up a whole new world of wonderful taste treats that are basically made from the same dough.  With the addition of almond paste, cardamom, cappuccino, anise, ginger, or limoncello, and so many other flavors, you can create a smörgåsbord of mighty tasty treats for your holiday enjoyment. 

One of the recipes that has me intrigued is Swedish Shortbread Cookies.  I’ve always thought of shortbread as being Scottish, but combining it with raspberries (did you say raspberries?), has turned it into a cookie that crosses borderlines, making it an international taste treat! The dough for this cookie will need to be prepared in advance so the butter has a chance to chill and help hold the shape of the cookie.  For the dough, beat 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature with ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar until creamy.  Then, reducing the mixer speed to low, slowly add 2 to 2 ½ cups of flour until just combined and no longer sticky.  Divide the dough into six balls of equal size, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. 

Roll each ball between two sheets of parchment paper to a ¼ inch thick rectangle that is 3 x 10 inches.  Carefully peel away the top layer of paper.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Make a shallow crease down the center of the rectangle and fill the crease with raspberry jam. Repeat with remaining dough.  Place the dough and parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350° preheated oven until the edges are golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Let cool, remove parchment paper and cut across the short side of the rectangle at a slight angle.  In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon almond extract and 2 to 3 teaspoons of milk until smooth, then drizzle the glaze across the cookies.  And there you have a relatively easy to make, international dessert that will turn heads this Holiday Season! 

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