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Many great culinary careers begin with cookie baking-one of the easiest and most gratifying kitchen projects, and one "job" for which children readily volunteer. A batch of freshly baked cookies is a supreme crowd-pleaser, and cookies are always welcome in lunchboxes and at snack time. Be sure to keep a stash in the freezer for spur-of-the-moment treats. You don't need a lot of fancy equipment for cookie baking, but proper cookie sheets are recommended. These are rimless pans of various dimensions: 15" by 10" is a good size, but get smaller ones if your oven is tiny. Choose heavy-gauge pans, which won't buckle when heated and cooled. Some bakers prefer doublebottomed ("air-cushioned") pans; these do help keep cookies from burning. For baking bar cookies, you'll also need a 13" by 9" baking pan,as well as an 8" by 8" and a 9" by 9" pan. A pan with square rather than rounded corners is best for cookies. Old-fashioned spritz cookies require a cookie press, which consists of a cylinder that you fill with dough, a plunger, and a selection of perforated plates and piping tips for shaping cookies. An assortment of cookie cutters lets you bake to suit any season or occasion. They can make a wonderful collection to display and to add decorative cheer to your kitchen.
These are the easiest of cookies to make: Just mix the batter, spread it evenly in a pan, bake, and cut into squares or strips. Fancier bar cookies can have a sweet, shortbread-like base and a nut, fruit, or chocolate topping.
CHEESCAKE SWIRL BROWNIES
PREP 30 MINUTES/BAKE 35 To 40 MINUTES
A ribbon of creamy almond cheesecake winds itsway through the middle of these super-chocolate brownies.
1/2 CUP BUTTER OR MARGARINE (1 STICK)
4 SQUARES (4 OUNCES) UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE
4 SQUARES (4 OUNCES) SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE
2 CUPS SUGAR
5 LARGE EGGS
2 1/2 TEASPOONS VANILLA EXTRACT
1 1/4 CUPS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
3/4 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER
1/2 TEASPOON SALT
1 1/2 PACKAGES (8 OUNCES EACH) CREAM CHEESE, CHILLED
3/4 TEASPOON ALMOND EXTRACT
1. Preheat oven to 350' F. Grease 13" by 9" metal baking pan.
2. In 4-quart saucepan, melt butter and unsweetened and semisweet chocolates over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove saucepan from heat. With wooden spoon, beat in 11/2 cups sugar. Add 4 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat until well blended. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat cream cheese until smooth; gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Beat in almond extract, remaining I egg, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla just until blended.
4.Spread 11/2 cups chocolate batter in prepared pan. Spoon cream-cheese batter in 6 large dollops on top of chocolate mixture (cream-cheese mixture will cover much of chocolate batter). Spoon remaining chocolate batter in 6 large dollops over and between cream-cheese mixture. With tip of knife, cut and twist through mixtures to create marble design.
5. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of pan comes out almost clean with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
6. When cool, cut lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 6 pieces. Makes 24 brownies.
EACH BROWNIE: ABOUT 240 CALORIES, 4 G PROTEIN, 26 G CARBOHYDRATE, 14 G TOTAL FAT (8 G SATURATED), I G FIBER, 70 MG CHOLESTEROL, 160 MG SODIUM.