Luscious “brownie” cookies

Brownie cookies on the left, heart short breads (the recipe is in our archives) and coconut cookies (they are coming soon)Contributor Liz Bell has been baking up a storm for family and friends, but also to sell at nearby farmers’ markets. She bakes her delectable homemade goodies with farm fresh eggs from their Quartz Hill Farm. Follow her on Facebook Quartz Hill Farm LLC.

Here is Liz, with her recipe for luscious Chewy Brownie Cookies:
Cookies are becoming a popular dessert at weddings. This cookie would be a great choice for any celebration. If you are a chocolate lover, you will love these cookies. They are great alone, or as a sandwich cookie with vanilla ice cream in the middle.  Indulge just this once in one of these chewy treats. You deserve it ladies.
Baking tip: In preparation for baking, I like to mix the dry ingredients first, so, when it comes time to add them to the wet, I do not have to stop the baking process and mix them together.
Heat your oven to 375 degrees.
Gather the following ingredients:
2/3 cup shortening
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 eggs
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa or regular cocoa (I prefer the special dark)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups (12oz. package) chocolate chips
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Combine flour cocoa, salt, and baking soda. I use a wire whip to ensure they are thoroughly mixed. Set aside for now.
Cream together shortening, brown sugar, water, and vanilla. Add the eggs and mix well.
Gradually add the dry ingredients to the shortening and sugar mixture just until they are blended. Add the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts. Drop cookies by rounded tablespoons about two inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
(Baking tip: I use a 1 oz. cookie scoop. This gives me a more-uniform shape and size.)
Bake seven to nine minutes. For a chewy cookie, bake them until they appear firm around the edges, but a little shiny still in the middle. Cool approximately two minutes and then remove cookies to a wire rack. Cool completely. Yield will depend on the size of cookie you choose to bake. If you follow the recipe and use the rounded tablespoonful, it will yield approx. three dozen cookies.
Variations: Add Andes mint chocolate chips for a little minty flavor. Or, substitute coconut flavoring and add some shredded coconut for a little German chocolate cake taste.

Chewy ginger cookies

Chewy ginger cookiesContributor Liz Bell, owner of the Cookie Connection in Culpepper, Virginia sends warm thoughts for the holidays — and a scrumptious cookie recipe!

From Liz:
Autumn. Crisp clean air. The smell of the leaves. Smoke from the fireplace. Cozy nights.
I close my eyes and can smell the mulled cider, apple pie, cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin and ginger, all the warm scents of autumn.  The colors: browns, reds, oranges, yellow, gold. That is what I love about this season.

That is why I chose this wonderful recipe for Chewy Ginger Cookies. It represents to me all the warm scents and thoughts that I have of this season. This is a lovely recipe to make with children too.  These are great for a cookie exchange or gift giving in a festive cookie box, tin, or tent box. Enjoy this recipe and enjoy your holiday.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
¾ cup shortening
1¼ cup sugar, divided
1 egg
¼ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cloves
Step 1:
In a medium bowl, use a wire whisk to combine the dry ingredients and ensure that they are mixed together:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cloves.
Set aside for now.
Step 2:
Cream together:
 ¾ cup shortening and 1 cup sugar in large mixing bowl till light and fluffy.
Step 3:
Add :
1 egg, ¼ cup molasses and a teaspoon of vanilla. Mix well. Add the combined dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix well. Roll into one-inch balls. Roll the balls in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Place the balls 1½  inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. 8 minutes for lighter brown colour, 10 for darker colour.
Remove from oven. Let cool for a couple of minutes. Remove to wire racks. (Yields approx 4 dozen)

Summer fruit delight

Nectarine-strawberry crostataReader Liz Bell, who has her own baking business in Virginia, The Cookie Connection, contributed this week’s delicious recipe, which captures her love of summer baking.
Here’s what Liz told us:
I love summer so much because I love to exercise, eat right, and bake flavorful desserts. Another reason I love summer is the availability of fresh produce. There is nothing better than a fresh juicy peach, nectarine, or strawberries. There is no better place to get such fresh produce than a local farmer’s market, unless you have your own garden.
Beautiful weather gets me thinking early in the day about my dinner menu. The other day was like that. It was warm with a gentle breeze, perfect for a nectarine and strawberry crostata with a little vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream. A wonderful tasty treat for dessert.  Strawberries add the right amount of tart to the nectarines’ sweet. They complement each other well.
Organization in the kitchen is very important. Gather all your tools and ingredients together before you begin baking.  This is called mise en place.  For those of you not familiar with this term it is French for “everything put in place.”
Nectarine-Strawberry Crostata
Eight servings
Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup firm butter
1 egg yolk
4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
Whisk the ingredients together in a medium bowl
11/2 cups flour 
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Cut in ½ cup of butter until crumbly.  Stir in egg yolk with a fork.  Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with the fork until a ball forms.  Gather the pastry into a ball and flatten it to a ½-inch thickness. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  I get my plastic wrap ready first and place my pastry directly on the wrap; it’s less messy that way.
While the pastry is chilling in the refrigerator, prepare the filling.
In a large bowl combine and mix:
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Set aside for now.
3 cups sliced nectarines (about 3 medium)
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of sugar, if desired
Remover the chilled pastry from the refrigerator. On a lightly-floured surface, roll the pastry into about a 13-inch circle, about an eighth of an inch thick. (To get a perfect circle, I use the Wilton 12-inch cake circles as a template. I place it on my pastry and with a pastry cutter, cut around the circle. It makes a perfect circle every time. You can also use a dinner or pie plate of about the same size.) Place the pastry on an greased cookie sheet large enough to hold the pastry. Set aside for now.
Combine the sliced nectarines and strawberries with the sugar, flour, cinnamon mixture in the large bowl.  Stir till coated.  Sprinkle with lemon juice.  Mix again. Now, spoon onto the center of the pastry, spreading to within about 2 inches of edge.  Dot with 2 tablespoons of butter.
Fold the edge of the pastry over the fruit, making pleats.  Brush the edge of the pastry with water and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar if desired.
Bake 30 to 40 minutes, covering with foil for the last 10-15 minutes to prevent over-browning. The crust should be golden brown and the fruit tender.  Cool completely, about one hour.
Garnish with a sprig of mint if you wish and serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whip cream, or both.
Whipped cream recipe
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place ice cubes in a large metal bowl, then place a smaller medium metal bowl on top of the ice cubes.  This helps chill the cream as you are preparing.  Place the 1 cup of heavy cream in the medium bowl and whip it until it is almost stiff.  Add the sugar and vanilla, beating until the whipped cream holds peaks.  Serve as desired.